The Gaucho
By Jim Davis

I loved Patagonia for many reasons, but foremost is the desolation-old ranches giving in to the elements-proof that civilization is not always pre-eminent. I felt taken back in time a century, only our Land Rover a small cocoon of modernism. We would drive all day, seeing only the occasional shepherd, and detouring miles at evening-time to find the closest village.

p>Framed by Wind-sculpted cliffs.
Valley floor carpeted with green.
Sparkling spring waters chatter by.
Aging adobes in disrepair, nestle
In maple grove, their leaves silver,
Faces turned by
Cold Patagonian Zephyrs.

La Estancia Primavera-
Owners long departed for the city.
Leaving only the Gaucho
and his herd.

A jaunty black beret sets off
His swarthy features-
Drooping moustache,
Slightly bulging eyes
Imposing yet not intimidating
Softened by his ready smile.

His caballero impatient.
Bola hanging ready.
Saddle lined with fleece
Warmth against daybreak's frost.

We shared some wine
With cheese and bread.
Putting our backs
Close to meager warmth
The cookhouse stove-
Age-old fragrance-
Coffee, bacon and sourdough
And smoke, as booming gusts
Puffed it from the chimney cracks.

One last mate', the ritual tea
Before we part.
He to watch his cattle,
We to map the rocks.


Sumatra-Medan to Sibolga
By Jim Davis

Back in the heady days of nuclear power optimism, when every country saw that form of energy as cheap and a way to possible power independence, I traveled to several countries on behalf of the IAEA to assist various countries in evaluating their potential for uranium deposits. That's what brought me to Sumatra in the company of USGS geologist Warren Finch and several BATAN (the Indonesian atomic energy agency) geologists. The "closest" commercial airport to the uranium prospect at that time was at Medan, across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia. From there we had to travel across the island of Sumatra to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Even with that knowledge I hadn't given much thought to the relative meaning of "closest."

Our hosts had negotiated for the services of a taxi and driver. Apparently there was no bus service or perhaps it was too dicey to consider. The fare for the trip was 45,000 Rupiahs, about $27. Round trip. Heck, that couldn't be too far or too difficult. I was wrong. I should have suspected something from the appearance of the vehicle-it was badly dented. Some dents apparently had penetrated the body because they were filled with gobs of putty which had been swiped over with various colors of paint. I wondered if the vehicle was a survivor of the last insurrection and hoped that its wounds weren't trophies of road accidents. Seat belts were an unheard of accessory.

It is soon apparent that the driver is chewing betel, for he becomes absolutely possessed as the challenges of traffic, together with the twisting narrow roads, are placed in front of his rusty missile. The sight of taillights ahead excites him to accelerate in frenzy until he has overtaken and passed the culprit. Lacking shock absorbers, the taxi lurches and bounds like a jack-rabbit over the rough pavement. One set of wheels is often off the road as we pass trucks, busses, cars, pedicabs, pedestrians and an occasional water buffalo. Every move is accompanied by blasts from the horn. Strangely, no anger is displayed-all actions are just the rules of the road.

The driver operates at full tilt, depending on combined dexterity with horn, steering wheel and a special type of intuition in order to repeatedly avoid catastrophe. My initial reaction is terror, until, after repeated near misses, a fatalistic sense is achieved, realizing the near-miss includes the driver's calculated safety margin. Brakes are used only for lunch stops or to signal the end of the trip.

At night the driver seems to know miraculously where the pedicabs and pedestrians are for I don't believe we hit any. But then I was crouched low in the seat and any sideswiping of an unfortunate helicak wouldn't have been felt any more than one of the potholes.

The road from Medan to Sibolga runs torturously south across the backbone of Sumatra, the rugged Barisan Range. Along the way we skirt around the end of the awesome caldera that now hosts beautiful Lake Toba. The 90 by 30 kilometer caldera was largely formed by a mega-colossal explosion about 75,000 years ago. An estimated 3000 cubic kilometers were blasted out by the stupendous blast! (I wonder how many years of winter that produced.) Today the crater is graced by large lake centered by the island of Samir, the 5th largest lake island in the world. In addition to the spectacular geologic scenery, the addition of lovely forests makes this a popular resort region. Along our route around the southeast end of the lake Batak homes with graceful swaybacked roofs and decorative fronts make this a delightful drive. For a while we forget the mobile dangers of the taxi ride.

A little further down the road we stopped at Tarutung, the boyhood village of one of our host geologists, Pahalo Tampubolon. We were lucky-the bi-weekly market was open and we purchased multi-colored, hand-woven ulos, a traditional Batak shawl which required a month's labor and sold for 25,000 rupiah. The market covered more than a block with tattered awnings, tents and lean-tos sprawled across the muddy ground. Piles of vegetables and tropical fruits were everywhere together with large baskets of dried and salted fish, offering an amalgam of odors that was not altogether displeasing, at the least offering an unforgettable dimension to the scene-A pleasing scene with crowds of happy people, evidence that this was a major social event. Lunch at a hotel with a group of Pahalo's former school mates required a few large bottles of native beer and prepared us for the final leg of our journey to Sibolga.

From Tarutung to Sibolga the road drops 4000 feet in less than 50 kilometers in countless curves, bumps and tunnels. It is aptly named "The Road of a Thousand Curves." Our estimate, based on a typical stretch, bore out the truth of the name. From the giant pines of the highlands we are soon into jungle foliage clinging to vertical cliffs. The road, barely over one vehicle wide except for the occasional pullover, is sculpted from the rock. We would stop at the pullovers and listen for trucks coming up from the depths of the gorge below. Looking down into the gorge bottoms we could see an occasional glare of the ubiquitous Coleman lantern. As we got closer to Sibolga, where electricity had probed out into the jungle, little groups of native huts would be centered around the flickering glow of a television at the community center, tuned to the only available station, Indonesian government TV.

The glimmering lanterns on tiny fishing platforms out in the Mentawai Strait of the Indian Ocean were a welcome sign that we were near our destination, Sibolga, ten hours and 350 kilometers from our start early today.


Getting Around in Jakarta
By Jim Davis

In Jakarta the universal advice is "don't take the President cabs" which really means stay away from any unmetered cabs unless you are bold and adamant enough to successfully negotiate the fare before you get in the cab and even then it's good to have some sense of where you want to end up. Sometimes the drivers don't know. When negotiating, the cabbies forget any English they knew seconds before, stubbornly remembering only the exorbitant amount they had originally stated. The Blue Bird and Steady Save were generally OK; they have meters, which are often forgotten and one ends up in the tough position of negotiating at the end of the trip anyway.

The streets are a maze of converted jungle trails and one-way streets seemingly go forever before a taxi can get turned around and deliver you to your destination on the other side of the street. Traffic lights apparently exist for the color only and intuitive mind-reading of other drivers at the cross-streets is more reliable.

There are alternatives, once you finally adapt the local version of fatalism. Pedicabs or becaks (pronounced bechak) are man powered and nice for sight-seeing or getting to a nearby but hard to find destination. For a little more speed, if not class, try the bajaj, a three wheeled noisy, mobile pile of junk. They are usually orange and always filthy. The driver keeps a large greasy rag, part of the required uniform, dangling from the grips, which is used to clean the seats for the next riders. The passengers sit behind the driver behind the privacy of a torn and dirty canvas curtain.

Most families travel on motor bikes. The mother, dressed to the teeth, rides in a relaxed manner on the rear, children perched here and there with no apparent limit as to the number. The father maneuvers adroitly between buses, trucks and weaving cars with never an inch to spare, squeezing through wherever a slight advance is to be gained.

Across the way on the island of Sumatra, every town seems to have its own flavor of helikaks, or bajajs. In Pematangsiantar, ancient Harleys with covered sidecars cruise with a quiet but familiar resonance-Poka-poka-poka. Conversely, at Medan, a larger city, the distinguishing characteristic is noise and a dense cloud of black smoke.

At Sibolga, on the shore of the Indian Ocean, the helikaks purr quietly and cleanly, the better ones with a neat canvas cover with crystal clear vinyl windows. The cheaper ones make do with a stray piece of clear vinyl for the passenger to cover with in case of rain.
Across the way on the island of Sumatra, every town seems to have its own flavor of helikaks, or bajajs. In Pematangsiantar, ancient Harleys with covered sidecars cruise with a quiet but familiar resonance-Poka-poka-poka. Conversely, at Medan, a larger city, the distinguishing characteristic is noise and a dense cloud of black smoke.

At Sibolga, on the shore of the Indian Ocean, the helikaks purr quietly and cleanly, the better ones with a neat canvas cover with crystal clear vinyl windows. The cheaper ones make do with a stray piece of clear vinyl for the passenger to cover with in case of rain.


Cliffed Out
By Jim Piper

When I was a budding young geologist one of the recon excursions I was involved in was a sampling trip to a remote location in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. A group of four geologists were flown in a Jet Ranger to the sampling site from a staging area in Silverton Colorado.

Three of us, field grunts, were directed by the geologist who had planned the recon trip. Our goal was to gather soil samples to follow up on anomalies. We took tents as the plan was to take samples and fly out after the sampling was completed.

We camped at an elevation of around 10,500 feet, and it was late July, so we still had summer-like weather, amenable to appropriate high country field attire. In those days I wore mountain guide boots which were made in France. The boots were Galibiers, with hardened leather exteriors made for expert mountaineers who needed protection from the sharp rocks.

The boots were heavy, weighing almost 3 pounds apiece, waterproof and felt like wearing 5 pound ankle weights when muddy. I was accustomed to running in these boots at high elevations, although I definitely was winded from the experience.

While sampling, I was assigned to take samples from an area located on the other side of a prominent incline. Early in the morning, I set out by myself wearing a sample backpack.

The sampling elevation was probably around 11,500 feet, but to reach my sampling destination I had to traverse a slope to arrive at an upper basin, so I had my work cut out for me.

Even though I was young and in good shape, I definitely felt fatigued after filling my backpack full of soil samples. Upon returning to camp, we still had daylight, so we set out to explore a gold bearing vein exposed in barren argillically altered drainage, ascending surfaces inclined around 35-40 degrees, and about as slick as a slide into home plate over ball-bearings.

The Jet Ranger picked us up the next day, but to my surprise the work was not yet done. I didn't get a ride to the staging area in Silverton, but instead, I was dropped off north of Howardsville on a saddle along what appeared from the air as narrow ridge separating two drainages. I pondered the prudence of this solo sampling effort as my supervisor shoved me out the helicopter door, with the instructions that he would pick me up near Howardsville. Well, I was about as anxious to climb down that mountain as a cat dangling over a bathtub full of water waiting to jump in. I thought to myself that climbing up has always been easy, but I've never enjoyed going downhill. It was a bit windy as the helicopter abandoned me on the top of the ridge, but moments later I prayed that my rugged Galibiers would provide me with stable footing as I began the downhill traverse, along a random switchback path down the steep slope towards the valley floor.

To the best of recollection the spot where the helicopter landed is marked by an "X?" on the Google 3D image. I believe that I traversed downslope from there, beginning my decent on talus, and working my way towards the more stable groundcover, to my destination just above Hematite Lake (labeled with blue text on image). I remembered the words of warning from Rick Trujillo, a geologist/field team leader from the prior field season, about how easy it is to get cliffed out. I focused upon my immediate space rather than look down to the valley floor, remembering that it isn't dangerous to be scared if one doesn't have a panic attack and do something stupid. The prior field season I nearly cliffed out while descending from the steep drainage to the east, having to crab crawl my way down a steep, highly altered stretch.

After successfully making my way down to the bottom of the valley without incident, the rest of the journey to the pickup destination at Howardsville was a piece of cake. My supervisor was waiting there in the pickup, apparently pleased with himself as evidenced by a smug look on his face as we departed for our journey back to Denver. I was tired and kept my mouth shut out of pride, not wanting to sound like too much of a whiner. As I think about it in retrospect, my confidence was boosted, as I had built a high degree of self-confidence for future challenges.


Darwin, Australia was a depressing town in the fall of 1975. It had been less than a year since Cyclone Tracy has decimated the place, destroying more than 70% of the homes. All that was left of most of them was the basic elevated concrete slab supported by concrete pillars a story high. The rubble of boards, windows and furniture had been scraped off, but nothing further towards rehabilitation had been done-the result of political indecision and infighting. The Travelodge where we stopped for a night had barely survived. One felt almost guilty, just being there in our portable cocoon of well-being. We were glad to board our small plane early the next day and head for the East Alligator uranium area, the guests of Pancontinental's exploration camp at the Jabiluka uranium discovery.

We flew through canyons of billowing clouds, the first signs of the wet season, twisting and turning in cumulonimbus canyons to stay out of the potentially turbulent fluff, though confident that there were no rocks hidden within the clouds; from Darwin to the East Alligator River is topographically featureless.

The Jabiluka camp was a nice one, not atypical of a lot of remote exploration camps except for the Australian influenced addition of a large trailer with garage-type side door which, promptly at five in the afternoon, was opened to reveal a bar counter supplied by vast quantities of beer from the refrigerated trailer. A short distance away a half-barrel, on its side and modified with a flat steel surface, served as a barbeque grill for giant water-buffalo steaks. The fire was stoked until the steel top almost glowed. Thick-cut steaks were slapped on, giving forth a grand display of sizzling, billowing smoke and a savory aroma. As always with any gathering of explorationists, dinner is a most interesting event, with stories from every corner of the globe, sharing of information and the inevitable arguments about ore concepts. With these guys, one didn't try to one-up, they had discovered an ore body worth billions of dollars and that didn't count the contained gold! Besides, they were buying the beer.
Our geological examination, purely for the purpose of exploration research, didn't take all of our time. One day we traveled into the western reaches of the Arnhemland Escarpment where the maze of cliffs and canyons is made even more fascinating by expressive and ornate Aboriginal rock painting. At many points the narrow canyons are almost closed at the top, one to two hundred feet above our heads. Tough tree roots dangled in mid-air, reaching for water beneath the sand of the canyon floor. One of Pan-Con's young field men climbed high up on one of the roots. He trusted the strength of that root more than I.

Golf along a roughly cleared fairway beside the billabong was played at the risk of ball theft by a magpie goose waiting in a nearby tree. Fishing was often successful with the use of a coiled and weighted line which was cast out from the shore. The fish went directly to the grill.
Today, piloting the Google Earth magical flying machine, I traveled the same area again. The route east from Darwin didn't appear much different than 37 years ago. Only a slight haze along the way-the Googleologists had done a good job of picking the scenes. As I approached Jabiru I was astounded by the sight of a giant crocodile sprawled near the edge of the town. I clicked it with my i tool and discovered it is the Gagadjac Holiday Inn. Nearby, the town of Jabiru had the appearance of a mature place with pleasant neighborhoods, schools and businesses. A further two miles east I circled over the Ranger uranium mine and mill, one of the reasons for the region's apparent prosperity. Twenty kilometers to the north I can see but a trace of the thwarted development of the Jabiluka property, with a likely value of nearly 20 billion dollars. Nearby, only a smear in the brush along a billabong in Magela Creek marks the spot of the Jabiluka camp site. The beer trailer is gone. I doubted that a draft at the Holiday Inn would match that can of Fosters and the camaraderie at the Jabiluka camp.

Before I head upstairs for dinner I make a final loop on my virtual tour, out over part of the Arnhemland escarpment east of Jabiru. The Kombolgie sandstone looks as though it had been smoothed over then etched by thousands of joints and fractures, now canyons, mostly linear, but here and there giving way to curvilinear. Fascinated, I fly on a vector of 65 degrees from the Jabiru airport for about 45 miles when I see an unbelievable sight below. It appears to be a giant honeycomb with each hole for or five hundred feet in diameter-there is likely at least a hundred of them in a very regular pattern, one appears to have a small lake and others are various degrees of green, suggesting different water levels. I head due east, passing another honeycomb along the way. I am already feeling "out-of-world" when I spy something else that makes me doubt my eyes-a perfectly round crater, almost a mile in diameter. Off to the northwest side is another, much smaller crater. As I turn and head back west I can't help but wonder about the fabulous mineral potential that must lie below that plateau (on one of the largest Aboriginal preserves so I don't plan to go prospecting soon).

I've seen enough for one day, I think I'll drop by the big crocodile for a beer on my way home. Someone there told me the crater is called Liverpool but when I asked about the honeycomb I just got one of those blank looks that geologists often get.


It May Be Futile
by Jim Davis

Prospecting for those elusive metals.
Subtle clues I search for.
Most leads false,
Still, always hopeful.

But-
Since money out surpasses
Money in,
I despair-
That one lifetime is adequate.
(Or my bank account).


October
by Jim Davis

I know what's behind these winds-
Pines dusted white in the high country,
Grass yellow, crested with seed.
Elk's bugle over frosty meadow.
I must hurry my task
For these rocks will soon be covered-
Useless `til spring, clues concealed,
Though still there waiting.
Perhaps needing a winter inspiration
To unlock mystery beneath.
It's been there forty million.
What's another year?


Not Porcelain
by Jim Davis

This Rock-
Its internal crystals precisely shaped.
Molten and frozen two billion years past.
Withstanding burial and glacial gouging,
Eons of sun and frost,
Rushing rivers and stampeding bison.
But I safeguard it-
On my bookcase.


Lithoaquatic Symphony
by Jim Davis

Tiz an enigma-
Rocks~~tough. Unyielding.
Water~~soothing, flowing.
That they should collaborate to play
Most stunning melodies.

Echoing down mountain ravines~
past glades of aspen and spruce,
under bluebell bowers,
through ancient granite,
and o'er barely cooled lava.

The composer used
Flat rocks,
Round stones,
Misty falls &
Booming rapids.

Majestic Opus.
All stops pulled.
No room for melancholy.
Only Joy~


A Camp Spot by Jim Davis

I could have driven into town, but that's an hour and a half away; on top of that it's late and I'm tired and hungry. Finding a camp-spot should be easy in the Montana mountains. But I've always been persnickety; after-all, this spot will have to suffice as living room, kitchen, bedroom, library and, if one is brave enough, a bathroom for the night. Next to water is preferable, dry wood without too much searching speeds up supper, a level spot to spread out the bed-roll, tall grass to soften things up and a view (being in heavy timber makes me nervous at night; the proximity of bears seems more likely, for one thing. Especially in grizzly bear country). A rock outcrop for building a fire up against is nice

On this August evening I drove up the road on Wolverine Creek from a rich but never to be mined gold prospect (Montana, 30 miles from Yellowstone), looking in temporary vain for just the right spot. Of course I passed up some "almost" places and finally came back to one that looked better in the waning light of day. I tromped the ground checking for sogginess and in the course of that found a nice little patch of wild strawberries bordered by stands of bluebells and red fireweed backed by a slope of daisies. The edge of thick forest was a comforting distance away. The whole scene seemed welcoming and I soon had a crackling fire going, supplementing the nearby tinkling little stream.

I think of family and wish they were here and I think of my father and feel thankful that he taught me the wonders of the mountains. To get over the sudden pang of loneliness I set to chopping up onions and potatoes and mash out a hamburger. Trusting it is safe to eat, I gather up a handful of watercress from the creek to supplement the lettuce and a farm-grown tomato from the low country.

I eat my supper out of an enameled tin plate as I stroll along the stream, admiring the settling sun and the deepening shadows. I look up the creek a couple hundred yards and see I am not the only one on the move. A bull moose with a great rack is grazing on the willows. He pays me no mind, probably not feeling any threat from a strange creature with no antlers. The night birds have begun their lonesome calls and the "swoooop" of the night hawk adds to the growing but subtle music of the night. A suddenly cool, stiffening breeze stirs down the valley and warmth leaves the valley as the cold from the barren heights of Black Mountain replaces it. I hoist my little food cache up into a nearby solitary tree, take a quick splash in the creek and jump into my sleeping bag.

I should be ready for sleep, but the stars, highlighted by the Milky-Way, offer a challenge to find the figures of storied fables and imagined characters of my own. As I gaze, transfixed by the ageless wonders of the heavens I am startled by a light suddenly moving into my field of view. It is a large meteorite, moving from north to south at about 30 degrees above the horizon. Abruptly, as it reaches the middle of the sky it breaks into numerous pieces in a mix of blues, green, red and yellow. Then it is gone. I wait for the sound, a boom or music, of such an awesome event but there is only silence, with a bit of wind and creek. To myself-Wow!

Note: With so many colors of the spectrum I later wonder if it was a piece of falling satellite.


Some Little Known Axioms of Geology and Minerals Exploration
by Don Adair
Contributed by Dave Jonson, DREGS member

Many rock types have the ability to change after they have been mapped by a geologist. Geologists should not be blamed for things like this that are beyond their control.

The quality of a geologic map may sometimes improve in areas between roads, particularly when the rocks are largely obscured from view.

Geologic hypotheses that are based upon extensive personal observation are not always incorrect.

Geologic hypotheses that are suggested by the boss are always worth thinking about, unless you have another job to go to.

Unexplainable "Sports of Nature" are around us everywhere and it is hopeless to attempt to explain them in terms of conventional geologic theories. These are Mother Earth's practical jokes on geologists.

A select few geologists know everything that is worth knowing; all geologists share a knowledge of the rest.

Luck plays an over-rated role in minerals exploration, and so does skill for most geologists.

Not all quadrangle corners have ore deposits associated with them.

Geochemical sampling grids are sometimes laid out in such a manner as to cover the right area.

Prospects always improve in proportion to the distance one gets away from them, either in miles or in years.

A prospector should never be told that his prospect is no good until you get back to town, unless you are in your own vehicle.

Many ore deposits have the ability to move, or even to disappear completely, when they sense the approach of a drill bit.


From Jim Piper, DREGS' Secretary

As I reminisce about excursions to northern Nevada, for some reason one particular memory returns. In the early 80s I was involved in a grassroots exploration project in northern Nevada and southern Oregon. We took US 95 north from Winnemucca to the Denio Highway 140, ending up at place where we frequently stayed - Denio Junction, Nevada, located at the junction of 292 and 140. Our destination was actually Fields Oregon, but we usually made it no further than Denio Junction. At that time Denio Junction was no more than a truck stop with the motel.

Usually we arrived in the evening ready for dinner. There were typically three people who worked behind the counter, the man who owned the place, his wife, and his mother who went by the name Granny. Granny reminded me of the character named Granny in the television show The Beverly Hillbillies. She was a small woman, probably in her mid to late 70s, with gray stringy hair, wrapped up into a bun, and "Elephant skin" wrinkles which would make a great geophysical anomaly. Granny had a delightful personality, and was always eager to serve the customers. The diner was rather small; it had a bar-like counter, with swivel seats in front of it. There were only a few tables in the diner, so there wasn't much of a choice of where to sit, and it was noisy with the ding-ding-dings of the slot machines spoiling the silence.

The motel rooms were small and had single beds. The rooms reminded me of fifties style architecture, with large windows. I vividly remember being awoken early each day by combination of birds chirping around bird feeders attached to drain gutters which were fixed to the overhangs, and sunlight pouring through the windows, sieving through the thinly laced curtains, perforating every square inch of the room.

The rooms at Denio Junction were deluxe compared to our accommodations further north in Fields Oregon, 20 miles north of the border. Fields had a population of seven, three of whom spent most of their time in California. In Fields, there was one cottage where we stayed while working in the area. It had two rooms, a front room with a fold out bed, and a small bedroom. The flies in Fields were so thick that the fly strips that we usually hung out upon arrival were completely covered by flies in a couple hours. There wasn't any television reception, only a couple of country stations on the radio, so to pass the time we swatted flies.

There were early 60s style gas pumps in front of the grocery store, usually serviced by Ralph, a heavy set gentleman in his 60s, who sported suspenders, and wore a straw hat which gave him a fiftyish look. Ralph's dress made him look as if he could have been a character from The Andy Griffith Show, which depicted life in the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina.

The diner at Fields was even smaller than the diner at Denio Junction. I believe that we were the only customers, so the service was great. Dinner was usually served by a muscular older woman with short greying hair, and a strong deeply weathered face, who usually wore sunglasses.

Ken and Julie, the owners of Fields station, raised horses. This wholesome couple was hospitable, and we chatted with them frequently, as we purchased goods from their general store. Traffic along the road to Fields could be easily spotted from miles away, by the trail of dust left behind. Counting cars couldn't be considered as a reasonable pastime there.

We didn't really need the luxury or the amenities of a fancy motel, as we spent most of our time mapping the Whitehorse Caldera, trying not to step on the short fat rattlesnakes (or at least tip toeing around them hoping not to arouse them). One day while mapping, I noticed a wild stallion that wasn't too far in the distance. As the sound of thunder echoed throughout the caldera lightning appeared upon the horizon, and the horse began to rear and snort in defiance, as if to challenge the lightning and thunder of the approaching storm. These memories are a remnant of the West of days gone by, best described by a road sign that I saw posted not far from Gerlach Nevada in the Black Rock Desert - "This is where the pavement ends, and the West begins."

The Dirty Beast Mine
by Jim Davis

It was like no other portal I'd seen. In fact, it wasn't really a portal but the remnant of a cave roof; I suppose it could be called a karst window. The roughly arching "portal" was a menacing row of broken limestone blocks, obviously ready to collapse with the next earth tremor, or less. Some of the blocks dangled down, looking appropriately like the snaggly teeth of a beast. In front of the "portal" was a jumble of broken limestone, interspersed with finer material, of which much had been mined out for its high-grade uranium content.

The Dirty Beast had first been mined in the early days of the uranium boom when the government offered a bonus for a small tonnage of high-grade ore. In the early 1950's there was no road into Little Mountain, a monocline perched on the west slope of the northwestern Bighorn Mountains and bounded on two sides by Devils Canyon and the precipitous south wall of the Bighorn Canyon. A couple of Bighorn Basin farmers, the Preator brothers, went prospecting up there and found good gamma count in the gulley which cut through the top of a collapsed cave. They walked a dozer in, dug down into the collapsed part of the cave, mined out several tons of impressive golden yellow ore, then walked the cat to a nearby flat and built a runway. The runway had a unique safety feature-one end of it terminated on the rim of a deep canyon, giving a plane the advantage of taking off without gaining altitude. Avery Aviation at nearby Greybull, Wyoming had purchased a number of WWII bombers, B-24's, for use in fighting forest fires. The Preators hired the company to fly the ore to the AEC buying station at Riverton a hundred miles away and to the best of my knowledge they collected the bonus.

Joe Highsmith, later the premier miner in the area, picked up the mine, believing that there was good ore to be had in the depths of the remaining cave. To prove his point he and his miners had burrowed down between the rocks to the bottom of the original cavern then followed the cave wall around its perimeter and back to the surface. Joe wanted me to map his tunnel and estimate the amount of ore. He had done a good job of sampling and estimating the percentage of barren rock amongst the fill but I was confounded as how to do any mapping in a gopher hole that three to four feet in diameter and wormed its way down, around boulders, up over boulders, into cave openings and back through fill, then horseshoeing its way back to the surface. "Don't worry," Joe assured me, "I'm not too concerned about a few tons one way or the other."

This called for a simple method with small equipment. With Joe holding the lead end of the survey tape, I followed, taking short bearings and slope readings with a Brunton. Sometimes ten feet was the most we could record before making a sharp turn. I could see Joe's purpose though; there was a lot of nice yellow stuff between the boulders, but was there enough to set up camp, mine and make a profit? I was just glad not to be the one doing the mining.

Well, we didn't close right on but it was close enough for us and Joe decided he could make a little money. Of course he had no government acronymical burocracies to haggle him about his spooky mine and he didn't have to fly the ore out.


Water Nymph
by Jim Davis

I heard her song before I saw her
As I tread the forest trail,
Along steep mountain side.
Inhaled deeply her heady perfume of wildness.

She bounded down the mountain.
Leaped from rock to rock.
Gathered flowers along her way.
Laughing gaily as she ran.

Carefree, `til winter slows her pace.
Tempts me to join her now
In gleeful flight.
I'm content to watch-Pickfoot Creek!

Note: After long summer days of solitary reconnaissance in the isolated backcountry where we geologists like to believe we will find the next big one; our thoughts sometimes turn to the fanciful. My apologies.


Swakup River
by Jim Davis

Mountains were here, worn down now,
Filled between with sand.
South to high dunes of the Namib-
Desert stretching to sea.
Undulating pink-Flamingos. Wing to wing.

Each dawn the mists roll in,
Rising from the Benguela-
Cool current off Antarctic ice.
Heavy dew nurturing We wisteria
And Zebra, ostrich, amazing abundance
In Moon-like terrain.

Granite polished smooth
Clue of dehydrated river.
Lost below the sand.
Water? Tamarisk, the only clue.

The only shade-
Beneath the rocks.
Daytime harbor for scorpion and serpent.
Still, a good place for the geologist-
Ancient rocks and minerals exposed-
Like Bones.


Trading up - A Yugo to a Lada, by Jim Davis

In 1983 the then unified communist country of Yugoslavia had a small uranium mine near Skovja Loka, Slovenia. Slovenia was deemed by the IAEA to be a good place to hold an international training course on uranium exploration. It is a stunning spot, replete with mountain lakes graced by castles high on the bordering cliffs. That, together with the local slivovitz and a friendly populous, took away some of the gloominess of the communist aura. I spent some time at the mine and participated in the training course.

Later I was joined by my wife and daughter. After a night in a dismal "holiday" spa near Ljubijana we continued on to Zagreb and to Split on the Adriatic coast. From Split we drove the tortuous coastal highway to the old coastal fortress city of Dubrovnik. Steep limestone hills along the coast support a few struggling forests on bare rock denuded of soil because of deforestation in ancient times.

The highway roller-coasters across valleys and ridges along the rugged coastline. Our rental Yugo was barely capable of doing the up-hill part of the journey and had not the will to pass anything on the stretch. Other cars whizzed by on no-passing stretches where visibility was reasonable. I finally got the chance to do the same and got the best of an ancient truck. No sooner than I had, when red lights flashed behind and I was pulled over by a policeman-the first and last one we encountered. He looked at me in bafflement as I started to explain in English, shook his head, with dramatic motions explained what I had done wrong and wrote down the fine, held out his hand and I paid on the spot.

In Dubrovnik I vowed to trade the tottering Yugo for a capitalist made auto, something nice like a Puegot or a Ford from the Hertz inventory. I was assured on the phone that they would take care of me, so I stopped by to turn in the Yugo and pick up the "better" car. To my horror the only car available was a Lada, the Russian inspiration for the Yugo! Both good examples of the communist tendency for mediocrity and lack of a sense of beauty. Whereas the Yugo veered sharply when the brakes were applied too abruptly, the Lada was ventilated with holes in the floorboards (useful for feet assisted ascents and dragging a foot to assist the brakes). I suspect that neither make was built with benefit of engineering drawings or standard specifications. More likely a picture of a car was circulated along the production line and the communist inspired workers took a stab at putting something together that resembled the picture.

Bravely we set out to drive the challenging highway from Dubrovnic to Sarejavo and on to Zagreb. Road construction sites along the way were a good way to visit with locals in the waiting lines and it was a great wonder to them that an American would be driving a Lada. Sarejavo was in the process of franically preparing for the winter olympics. Not even the airport was completed and the games were only months away. We didn't see how they could do it in time. Hotels and restaurants seemed to be mostly places to smoke.

Along the way is Mostar, a picturesque village graced by a beautiful arched marble footbridge across the River Neretva. The bridge connected the mostly Muslim south part of the city with the mostly Christian north side. In 1983 the city lived in at least outward peace. The Muslim's call to prayer rang out from the spires of the mosques and to the north Christians went to their church on Sunday. The marble stones of the arched bridge were polished by 400 years of commerce, family visits, and probably some small wars. But it survived, perhaps even becoming stronger as the weight and wear of centuries settled the cut pieces of marble into a unity of beauty and strength, a symbol that religious beliefs can coexist along side each other. From the bridge the view up the river toward the mountains over the white buildings with their red tile roofs was something to make one stop and feel good. (Ten Years later - Dateline Mostar, Bosnia-Hersgovina. November, 1993 - "After 3 days of shelling by a Croat tank the Old Bridge, Stari Most, no longer exists." ) Note: The bridge was recently rebuilt.


A River Runs Through It

by Jim Davis

If I could ford the clear, swiftly flowing waters of the Blackfoot River with my little Bronco II the road didn't continue far, but crossing to the far side of the river would save me miles of backpacking through some roadless hills to where I'd found some ore-grade gold mineralization in some large pieces of float that had the appearance of near outcrop stuff. It is an area manifested with steep forest covered slopes, little outcrop and massive slumps and slides that hosted thick brush and berry patches that I thought were likely to be claw-licking good to some grizzlies that had been seen in the area. As a precaution I had an aluminum skillet hanging on my backpack as a noisemaker but I worried as to whether the sound might be more like a dinner bell to a hungry bear than a suggestion that they keep their distance. Even more likely, a broken leg could be fatal (Never say "Break a leg" in wishing luck to a field geologist!). Foolish in my wilderness confidence, I seldom told anyone where I was within a township or two. At least my yellow Bronco, parked at the edge of a meadow on the wild side of the river, would offer a beacon of sorts.

I'd thought about wading the river but it was fast and the bouldery bottom looked just too treacherous. Placer gold wouldn't sink any faster than I in these cold, swift waters. I'd had one experience of getting a pickup stranded in high waters so I had a nervousness about crossing with the Bronco but the thought of not walking those tiring rough miles every day finally prompted me to try. The approach across the gravel bar was easy and the gravels appeared to slope gradually into the stream so I cautiously eased into the river then backed out-easy enough. I went a little further. I clenched my jaw as the waters swirled high on the wheels and against the door a bit, but then the bottom leveled out and the Bronco reached out for the far shore. Soon I was safely on the other side ready to map early in the day rather than hiking in for two hours.

After days of finding juicy looking alteration in far-flung float, followed by a fruitless search for an outcrop I called Russ, my boss, and asked him to take a look and offer some suggestions for the next phase of exploration. We weren't too many miles from an active gold development project and regionally the geology looked good. Russ and another geologist showed up a few days later and we drove our vehicles to the banks of the Blackfoot. The water was a bit murky from last night's rain but I eased in ahead of Russ. With a lurch the Bronco's nose dropped precipitously. I realized, too late, that the heavy rain had caused the river channel to scour deeper. I jammed down on the gas pedal and the Bronco leaped then fell back just as quickly as the deepening water was sucked into the engine, causing numerous fatal flaws in the workings of the motor. The comforting whine of a four-wheel drive doing its job was replaced by the gurgling sound of the water as it lapped up and over the edge of the window opening as I quickly moved to exit through the window to the roof.

The Bronco's tail was still high enough that I could stand on the submerged bumper and hook on a tow rope that Russ tossed to me. My field car was totaled and I could only hope that the insurance company would be sympathetic. As I squished up onto the shore, Russ grinned and said "Now I know what they were talking about in the movie `A river runs through it!'"


Why I Became a Geologist

by Blair Roberts

I suppose all of us have stories to tell about how we came to be involved in geology or mining or the earth sciences. For those of us who grew up in a mining town or an oil town, the choice was obvious. That is what many people did in those areas. For me, growing up in a small farming community in northeastern South Dakota, the choice was not so obvious. Our farm was near the edge of (Pleistocene) Lake Dakota, a glacial lake similar to the much larger and better-known Lake Agassiz. Where we lived, the lacustrine sediments were about 40 feet thick and underlain by Pierre shale. When we dug the basement for our house, I was fascinated by the many tiny crystals of selenite gypsum in the yellow silt sediments. This got me thinking about crystals, and geology in general.

There were no spectacular outcrops to attract our attention and no mining activity nearby except a little sand and gravel. Of course we studied in school about the Homestake Mine in the Black Hills, but it seemed far away and not of much significance to us. The Black Hills were about 400 miles away by road and we seldom ventured more than about 40 miles from home.

Similarly, we knew about the iron ranges in Minnesota but these too seemed far away. The oil in North Dakota had not yet been discovered. There were (and are) some lignite deposits in western South Dakota. I remember that my Dad at least once drove a team of horses and wagon to Mobridge (Missouri River bridge) to bring back a load of lignite. It burned OK but was quite smoky. There was a world-class granite quarry (still operating today) only about 70 miles southeast near the Minnesota line, but it did not seem to attract much attention.

I knew I was interested in science, so I enrolled at South Dakota State College at Brookings, where a buddy of mine had gone the previous year, and took some general courses; including agronomy, soil science, and the one geology course they offered. In the summer after my sophomore year, I had a job mapping soils, still in the Lake Dakota area but about 70 miles southwest. We mapped on air photos. The job consisted of walking around in the fields with a spade, acid bottle, and color chart; digging small holes and noting the depth of the organic soil horizons, any zones of accumulation, the nature of the parent material, etc. A characteristic of one of the more boggy soil types was a small accumulation of tiny iron-manganese concretions near the base of the soil profile. The purpose of all this was to classify the various soils in a standard system of soil series, soil type, texture, color, and drainage; and to produce maps that could be used for a variety of purposes.

In the same area there was an irrigation project being considered by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, and attached to this effort was at least one geologist. His main activity seemed to be driving around in an open-air Jeep, surveying the countryside from the section-line roads. It struck me that this was a more pleasant activity than what I was doing. I had been thinking a bit about geology by that time; so I transferred to the University of Minnesota to study geology, and the rest as they say is history.


Out of Sibolga, Sumatra
by Jim Davis

They had played the game before. I could tell from their confident pose, as they aligned along the bathtub across from my meager bed. Their beady eyes gleamed with arrogance. They challenged my legal occupancy to the room by right of primal longevity. Pretending not to notice, I carefully untied my boot and slowly lifted it back to a throwing stance, then quickly hurled the shoe.

In a flash, before the missile was half-way there, the cockroaches disappeared into the open drain hole at the outside base of the tub. I stuffed some newspaper into the hole, knowing that this wasn't the only open avenue for the roaches to share my room but it offered a small bit of protection until I could doze off. But my thoughts of a good sleep-it had been a long day of driving over rough winding, rough roads from Medan to Sibolga, were further interrupted by a knock on my door.

I opened it to find one of the Indonesian geologists there. "Come on down to our room. We have a durian, it'll be good for your sleep."

At this point in my trip I didn't know what a durian was. The only reference I had seen was a warning on the official notice stapled to the inside of the room door stating the check-out time, the room rate and finally, in bold letters, NO DURIAN ALLOWED. Booze? Doubtful. Clove cigarettes? Whatever it might be I wondered how I could decline gracefully. The fellow was insistant, waiting as though it was a local custom that would be insulted if I didn't go. Bowing to obviously expected participation I would figure a way to say my hellos and bid a quick good-night when I got there.

As I entered the geologists' room I was greeted by a very unpleasant odor. On the table was an oval fruit which could be best described as a hedgehog masquerading as a green melon. My hosts were smiling in anticipation, but I wasn't sure if they really liked this thing or if this was some sort of Sumatran joke. Wielding a machete my friend deftly chopped the prickly melon into several pieces which were passed around along with a smaller knife to carve out bite size pieces. I was barely able to avoid a grimace and with a building retch, followed the example of the others, digging into the latest in sleep potions. Surprisingly it wasn't too bad but it took a lot of teeth brushing later. I found out that only the better hotels forbid the durian so it is sort of a dividing line between the one-star and higher rated hotels.

Another American geologist and I were in this backwater but beautiful seaside jungle spot to look at a uranium occurrence that was being considered for further exploration by BATAN, the nuclear power agency of the Indonesian government. The next morning we caught a bus, actually a small pickup with a shell on the back and lined with a wooden plank on either side for seats. The back was open and the exhaust fumes took the place of air conditioning. The "bus" was constantly crowded, people getting off and others crowding on as we stopped along the dirt road that headed up over a high ridge and then into deep jungle where the road ended by reason of a recent wash-out. Our guides explained that the prospect was a few miles away so we hoisted on our back-packs and were on our way.

Our path, soft, damp, and well-worn, meandered for a couple of miles beneath a cool canopy of giant trees until the trail forked. Our branch of the trail opened rather suddenly onto an open park of terraced rice paddies with the dikes providing a zig-zag trail. At one point we crossed a small brook where we surprised a young mother washing clothes in the stream while her two toddlers splashed in the stream. The only disruptive part of the scene was the bright red plastic clothes basket. Beyond the paddies we trod once again through the forest, with smaller trees this time. We were surprised to find an elaborate network of bamboo pipes and flumes suspended from tree trunks and carrying water from the nearby hills to scattered rubber trees. The trail became dimmer and seemed to end against impenetrable vegetation. The native guide was unpreturbed and his machete quickly formed a tunnel through the dense brush and vines. I wondered if this was the sort of home for the giant snakes purported to reside in the area.

We had yet to see an outcrop of rock and where there could be any uranium here except under a thick mantle of lateritic soil so I was expecting to see deep pits dug in the jungle floor when suddenly we were at the base of a picturesque sandstone cliff some 6o feet high. Yellow uranium mineralization was visible here and there. Most astounding was a lattice-work of bamboo which fronted the cliff from the bottom to the top. This was our access to examine the rock. Clever, if somewhat disconcerting to climb.

Later, our work done, we ascended to the top and walked across the smooth sandstone surface to a small stream which had neatly incised itself into the rock, flowing melodiously to where it dropped over a cliff. The sun was warm but the spray from the water-fall was refreshing as we had our late afternoon lunch and a siesta.


PLACEROS DE ORO

by Jim Davis

Rusting tracks

Going nowhere,

As though mocking the mine

From which they issued.

Failed Dream of one

Engineer Flores.

Parched, greenless hills

Far above the Rio Baldes.

Empty Gordon's bottle in the weeds,

Testimony to only one difficulty

Of making gold bars

From an undependable vein.

Weathered shanty

With view of Drabness.

Once colored with hope-

Fading, inevitably.

Though watered with gin.


The Bridge across the Rio Sierra, Chiapas, Mexico

By Jim Davis

       On the other side—

       Slippery slopes,

       green jungle,

       scattered bits of red (rhododendron).

       Until lost in high in misty clouds.

       Far below—The River,

       Raging white rapids.

       Grinding, roaring—

       Oh, My God!

       The bridge, swinging,

       Grasping frayed rusty cables.

       Rotted planks (some missing).

       Gaps framing 

       A nervous view of catastrophic Turmoil—

       Boulders, mixed with deadly foam.

       Defying uneasy steps.

       The structure sways.

       Disharmonic

       With our frightened pace.

       But the only way to the other side,

       And rocks

       That might be different,

       Altered,

       Mineral rich.

       For there is gold in the river’s sands.


Driving in Developing Countries
by Keith Laskowski

Since 1997 I have been spending most of my time conducting mining exploration programs in developing countries, located in various parts of the world. At first, I was amazed at how many similarities there were in these societies, even though their cultures were quite different. These included Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, and Hindus as I worked extensively in Mongolia, Peru, and Haiti with shorter duration in Brazil, Thailand, Colombia, and Mali. In each country, thanks in large part to CNN, there were many things that were pretty similar, including a universal respect for the Los Angeles Lakers and the people in remote villages dressed about the same as people in any U.S. city. People for the most part wanted to work hard, provide food, and a home, and give their kids an education. However after countless hours in the back seat of a field vehicle being chartered around these various countries, I came to realize that not only are the family values similar, but also, for some strange reason, these hired drivers in each country have similar driving skills (or lack of). Apparently they all enrolled in or attended the same driving school.

After careful observation, I have recorded what I believe are the commandments of driving, for drivers in developing countries. These procedures are almost always applied when using an expensive, high quality four-wheel drive vehicle recently imported. Generally this takes place in small field vehicles, like a Toyota Hi-Lux. Usually, these vehicles are operated by drivers that speak little, if any English, making suggestions or discussions a bit more difficult. These rules are not in any apparent order of priority, but were jotted down just the other day, as I bounced around with another memorable driver.

1.) Vehicle Fuel: Never fuel the vehicle, before a mission or trip. It is most important to load the vehicle at the office or airport, then have all travelers select their seat and proceed directly to a nearby gas station, preferably with an existing long line of vehicles. It may be unsafe to leave fuel in a vehicle overnight, but it is less safe, if the fuel is available prior to loading the vehicle.

2.) Vehicle Idle: This can be complicated, but it appears that the main rule is to never allow a vehicle to "idle" when experiencing a delay. Promptly turn off the engine, whenever the vehicle is not moving, especially if a passenger requests the vehicle to stop for a moment, for instance to look at a map, or to acquire a GPS reading, or maybe to buckle a seatbelt. This rule is sometimes partially contradicted, in the case of high latitude drivers who often will start the vehicle a minimum of 30 minutes before departure and let them idle up to 20 minutes, after a day of travel, in this case, to let them cool down.

3.) Vehicle Operation Range - Acceleration: Most vehicles are provided with high compression 6 cylinder or sometimes 4 cylinder engines, which may or may not have a turbo-charger, and they usually burn diesel fuel, with a manual transmission. The vehicles are equipped with a tachometer, having a range of measurement from zero to more than 7000 revolutions per minute, reflecting the rate of cylinder use and engine strength. In developing countries it is appears to me that it is a requirement that the engine rpm range must never exceed 1800 rpms, for any reason. A proficient driver is capable of reaching the 4th transmission gear while still travelling at a speed less than 20 kilometers per hour, preferably when going up hill. I am still not sure why the other 5000 units are included on the tachometer.

4.) Vehicle Operation Range - Deceleration: Absolutely never use the transmission and the engine to decelerate the vehicle, as in "never downshift". It is necessary to use only the brakes, independent of road conditions, for deceleration. Mud, snow, and gravel are fine for heavy breaking. It does not matter if you are travelling uphill or downhill the same rule applies. The smooth transitions between high-speed travel and the stopped position can be avoided when firmly applying the brakes, rather than the gradual deceleration of systematic downshifting. This is especially effective for keeping all passengers awake.

5.) Turning the Vehicle: Drivers are apparently instructed to focus forward, and to avoid providing any indication of an upcoming abrupt change of direction, or a turn. It is apparently important to protect this information from other drivers that may be following the vehicle. Never issue a warning, such as a directional turn signal, use a "blinkers", or hand signal.

6.) Route Selection: Generally there is only one route, or choice, when it comes to traversing remote regions of these developing countries, however if the road is wide enough for two vehicles to pass, it is preferred that the driver utilize the opposite side of the road as was intended for the vehicle direction, as much as possible. The other side of the road generally has fewer potholes, fewer puddles, and fewer washboards than the side intended for travel. This is independent of the direction of travel, when using the same route more than once. It is sometimes acceptable to return to the intended side of the road, when approaching another larger vehicle. An axiom of this rule involves maps. Generally, a driver in a developing country must avoid using maps at all cost. Once maps are introduced, it may invalidate the classification as a "developing country" and hence disqualify the driver as a qualified driver. It is recommended that rather than using a map or a GPS, it is best to locate strangers in remote areas and ask for instructions. If a passenger has provided their own map, or GPS, it remains critical to disregard their instructions or suggestions. Local strangers are generally found along the roadside, or on horseback. It is recommended to approach strangers in a very threatening manner. Once a potential candidate has been identified and stopped, it is important to demand information, without providing any sort of introduction, or politeness or exchange. I have found over time, that it is best to select parties that clearly have never travelled more than 10 or 20 kilometers from their current location, and to request information about a location that is beyond that perimeter.

7.) Use of "Four Wheel Drive": The use of "four wheel drive" and the manual 4 x 4 shifter for the engagement of the front wheel drive train is a concept that is clearly over rated in the U.S. In developing countries, it is reserved for just one situation. Once a vehicle can no longer advance, either forward or in reverse due to road conditions, it is acceptable to engage the 4 x 4 shifter and attempt to engage the front wheel drive train. Some believe that this will increase the possibility of advancing the vehicle. If this is successful, the vehicle must be immediately returned to the two wheel drive setting. If the vehicle is not freed using the 4 x 4 (high) selection, it is acceptable to attempt to utilize the "four low" setting. Again, once freed, the vehicle must be returned to the two wheel drive setting. In most instances, it remains unclear why this "four low" setting is more successful at advancing vehicles. The use of these settings remains independent of the frequency of obstacles. Overall these rules, and experiences simply reflect that these developing societies around the world, have had a very small amount of time, where vehicles have been available and hence, there is no culture of driving skills. Unfortunately, the ultimate problem with this situation, is that the absence of the driving culture, leads to an absence of a driver safety culture, and ultimately, very poor reaction times in cases of emergency. Riding in a car remains the most dangerous part of any exploration program.


First Spring Stuck
by Jim Davis

In our younger days we all had to do it. It was just part of a geologist's spring ritual. A test of how far we could get back into the boondocks without getting stuck. Sometimes it was a snow bank that was a bit too deep and too wide, sometimes a creek with a bottomless bottom. If you worked in Wyoming you soon learned that that crackly dry appearing surface on those barren hills could mask a horrible mush of wet bentonite that bested all efforts to dig out. It was good exercise-hours of digging, prying, cussing, praying, paving with brush and rocks, close encounters of the worst kind with the Handyman jack and finally, sometimes after one last desperate spate of swearing and a final kick of the stuck wheels, walking miles to a ranch or town.

After a winter of building a severe case of cabin fever in the drafty exploration offices in the Gas Hills, tempered only by miserable mud logging (a geologic description of the drill cuttings from depth) on the drill sites, Cecil Harris and I were ready for venturing into the far-away hills of Copper Mountain. It appeared that the next, this time real (dream-on), uranium boom was about to start and we were anxious to get going. The boss encouraged us to look around the region for some good exploration potential.

I had previously drilled out a small orebody at Copper Mountain and the resultant mine was still operating. There were a lot of uranium smells all over that area. Cecil and I figured there ought to be some other deposits to be found so we drove our two wheel drive (accountant's choice) Ford pickup across the Castle Rock road, through the dusty little settlement of Lysite and into the foothills of Copper Mountain. The alteration there is dramatic and our enthusiasm carried us through the day. Twilight was upon us as we headed up through the rugged hills to take a quick look at the Arrowhead Mine before darkness forced us back to town. The normally dry creeks were running water and we cautiously tested the firmness of the crossings before we crossed. Sometimes it was a nice gravelly, rocky bottom, other times it was a brute force crossing, requiring a high-speed launch through the boggy bottom and bouncing up the far bank with a grand spray of water and mud-visible testament to our tough day in the field.

The remnant of an ancient homestead irrigation ditch was our downfall. I remembered it from before-nothing but a dip in the trail, but this time the creek had flooded into it and it brimmed over with water which was flowing down over the road. The spinning back wheels threw fountains of mud as the front wheels bounced across the ditch and out the other side of the ditch but our speed was slowing and the rear wheels stopped in the ditch just as I heard the bottom of the truck drag on a rock. We came to an abrupt stop with the wheels spinning for a final moment before I turned off the switch. There was sudden silence, broken only by the gurgle of the spring-time water. Ordinarily it was a nice sound. Together with the looming darkness it was an ominous sound.

After the usual fruitless ritual of the above mentioned remedies we took the flashlight and started the mile-long walk up to the mine. I knew Joe, the super, wouldn't be there but I remembered the old International "doney" truck that the miners used to haul waste rock away from the trommel. Sure enough, there it was, half-loaded with rocks. With a twist of wires it started right up. I pulled the light switch but nothing happened, the headlights had long ago been the victim of errant rocks. Cecil sat on a front fender and with his flashlight lighting the way we crept back down to the pickup, backing down the final hill to where we could hook a chain onto the pickup. With the load of rocks I wondered if we could get up the hill but the old truck roared and whined and in a few feet the pickup was on solid ground where we unhooked the chain.

Cecil couldn't get around the truck with the pickup because of the boulder strewn hillside so I would have to depend on the lights from behind to find my way up the road. That worked fine until the truck reached the sharp crest of the hill and ahead of me was nothing but dark. Suddenly the truck lurched to a stop with a crash followed by a second crash as the load of boulders rushed forward. The impact was enough to rip me from the steering wheel and across the cab into the passenger door. Dazed but not too battered I slid out of the truck as Cecil came running up from the pickup. The front right wheel of the truck was twisted around a giant boulder. There wasn't much we could do so we drove to home in Riverton.

The next morning I figured I'd better drive out to the mine and confess to Joe. I hoped he would understand. As I pulled up to the mine Joe came walking over and I wondered just how I was going to explain the accident, which now seemed really dumb.

Before I could say anything Joe said, "I'm glad you're here, Jim, I have a mystery on my hands. Somebody stole the doney truck last night, drove it out across the flats and crashed into a boulder-the only damn boulder on top of the hill!"

I felt an unstoppable laughter rising out of my gut and I had to let it out. Joe looked at me in puzzlement for a moment then grinned, "I think I'd just about come to the right conclusion, you never know what trouble geologists will get into come spring."


Mining Stories: At the Sunnyside Mine, Silverton, Colorado
by Jim A. Paschis

In a 1969 mining overview course I made a friendship with a fellow physics teacher and we both gave up that science profession and `defected' to economic geology. The next summer I had just finished a week of mapping underground in the Camp Bird Mine completing field camp through Colorado School of Mines. It had another San Juan highlight, taking the first of many, rides on the 36"- gauge, Durango and Rio Grande Western Railroad to Silverton.

My friend had landed a job with Standard Metals at the Sunnyside Mine. Right after field camp he invited me to accompany him for his half-day Saturday of geologic mapping underground in the D - level of the mine. This day was for maintenance and mapping, not development or production. Access was by battery locomotive and crew car. The head count was made of three in the crew car with supplies heading up. We rode 2 dark miles into the American tunnel reaching the hoist at the Washington shaft. The hoistman then caged us up the next 970 feet to the F - level. We walked over to the 2500-raise and met the operator of the air tugger. There, one at a time, we got in the steel `coffin' box, used as a timber and supply skip, to be hoisted up about another 100 feet to the D - level. With the sporadic pneumatic pulses on the tugger cable, my friend went up first lifted in the man-sized skip. The accompanying miner followed me.

On the D - level, a new exposure of a one-half inch wide, white quartz vein with finely disperse, barely visible, gold had been made. The steep main vein mined was about 20 feet wide bearing pyrite, galena, and sphalerite with rhodonite in flanking altered volcanic rocks. I was told that the assay across the vein for combined lead, copper, zinc, gold, and silver was $1,150 per ton (in 1970 prices). There was also a two-inch wide hubnerite vein crossing out into the south rib. The miner made plumbing preparations bringing extra water line and hose. Then I knew one of the reasons I was invited: I had the `honor' of washing the ribs and back from Friday's blasts while my friend did the mapping. There certainly was a nice mix of ores which made his geologic map interesting.
Near the end of the work, my friend mapped the new quartz veinlet and pointed at the location that carried the fine visible gold. It was difficult to see so he pried on the vein and gave me ore to take out and check in daylight. I was thankful and said I would describe the minerals that I observed and let him know. After he gave me the two hand samples it was time to head back down. Mapping was done for the day. It was a great experience to see the operation and later write: Sunnyside Mine and list the metals they produced on my hard hat.

The call was made for the tugger for us to descend back down to the F - level. The miner then summoned the hoist and the three of us were back down and departed the cage. Those two hoist operators also joined us at the tram for the ride out to daylight. We rode past the underground office windows and the head count by the watchman was six, all accounted, and the portal could be secured.

That fall, I examined the D-level sulfide ores (Photo 1) and made a couple of cuts for two polished sections for the ore microscopy class at CSM. It was a learning situation seeing fine gold grains in quartz and the common sulfides. But one of the gray minerals seen was elusive to optical identification and needed X-rayed. It was found to be the silver species: polybasite. The polished sections were photographed at interesting areas including the polybasite which was next to gold (Photo 2), under crossed polars. I submitted the class report and sent a copy over to my geologist friend, keeping my promise about ore the samples.

Under the ore microscope I had examined a specific area containing gray galena - only, with its diagnostic cubic cleavage within quartz. Many years later I went back to that polished section and found it was thoroughly tarnished. I sent it out to Hal Miller for re-buffing. He removed the tarnish quite well and apparently also a very thin layer <.1Êm of the soft galena I previously had examined. But to my surprise, in crystallographic continuity with the galena (Photo 3) gold was now exposed!

In 1976 I had joined the Schwartzwalder Mine staff in Golden. There, Rick Carlson shared the news: that on Sunday, June 4, 1978, Lake Emma, once over the top of the cavernous Sunnyside Mine, had seeped then eroded through lake-bottom sediments, washed into the stopes, and completely emptied down the shafts. The draining lake waters had also carried the adjacent surface, original mill tailings from the early 1900's and came cascading with all in its path 1,700 feet down and then out the mine portals and into Cement Creek. From the shores of what once was Lake Emma, the scoured deep bottom hole and stope timbers of the Sunnyside Mine were exposed to daylight and captured in a 1979 photograph (Photo 4) by P. Carrara of the United States Geological Survey.

In western Pennsylvania attending the 1990 high school reunion, sitting to the left of a former classmate, we discussed our past common threads that lead us west to the San Juan Mountains. Ironically, he was the on-site insurance adjustor that reviewed the Sunnyside Mine disaster which fortunately took no miners that day.

For more information about the mining district the book now in its third printing: Mining the Hard Rock by John Marshall with Zeke Zanoni, 1996, is a great historical and pictorial documentation of the Silverton, Colorado area.
DREGS 2009 Fall Field Trip Summary:
Evolving Gold Corporation's Rattlesnake Hills Project, Natrona County, Wyoming
by Bob Laidlaw


Truck Troubles

By Dave Jonson

In the 25 years prior to 2003, I did a lot of consulting field work in the western U.S. - property exams and recon - mostly using 4WD trucks borrowed from my clients. I've had my share of "interesting experiences" and bizarre mishaps. Three of the most memorable are described below:

Sagebrush Stupidity - It was late afternoon, in a remote area in central Nevada. I saw a small iron-stained hill, my last outcrop visit of the day and thought "Why not drive a quarter-mile through the sagebrush-filled valley and collect a sample?" Big mistake, I discovered later, if the sagebrush, taller than first estimated, scours the bottom of your truck.

After my brief rock exam, I turned the ignition key. Total silence. Not even a low growl from a near-dead battery. I checked under the hood. The battery cable wasn't loose. What now? I suddenly felt very lonely. Cell phones weren't invented yet and nobody was going to drive out into the desert to rescue me. I was about to put an orange and a half-filled water bottle, left over from lunch, in my backpack, and start a 10-mile or 20-mile? - slog to the highway, and then hitch-hike into town, mostly after dark. Not an attractive scenario!

For some unknown reason - maybe the Geologists' Good Fairy whispered in my ear - I decided to look under the truck, as a last resort. I saw a mysterious, dangling black wire, about eight inches long, which I plugged into its nearby socket. I turned the key again. The truck roared into life. The sagebrush had jerked the connection loose! I was saved! Happiness is an operating truck on the way to town, a hot shower, a good meal, and a warm bed.

Paperclip Perplexity - While examining a prospect near Montello in extreme northeast Nevada, I had another fun-filled afternoon when my truck again didn't start. I was baffled. I'm not a mechanic, and if the trouble isn't immediately obvious, I'm helpless. I walked about a half-mile downhill to a small hut, occupied by a hippie, and paid him $10 to drive me into town. I returned the next day with a mechanic who was also puzzled until he opened a small, black electric box bolted to the engine wall. (A "mystery box" to me). The previous driver, the client's geologist, had "fixed" a broken bare wire with a paperclip. He forgot - or was too lazy - to get a permanent repair. The paperclip worked loose a couple months later, while I was driving. Gee, thanks a lot, guy! But it's all part of the Great Adventure, right?

Metal-on-metal Madness- My truck suddenly stopped while I was driving the I-80 service road near Winnemucca, Nevada. (This breakdown could have been much worse, if about 30 miles from the highway!). I crawled under or over the security fence - I don't remember how I did this - and hitch-hiked to town. I returned the same day with a mechanic in a service truck. I'll always remember what he said: "Buddy, this truck was put together on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon. It lacks a hard rubber, shock-absorbing engine mount. It's metal on metal". The alternator was badly cracked, after repeatedly being smashed against the engine wall. But thanks to an emergency duct tape job we limped back to town.

While having a new alternator installed - we used to call them generators - I told a little old lady from New Jersey in a family-style Basque restaurant that I was a "prospector". (No point saying you're a "mining geologist". Huh, what's that? But everybody knows what a prospector is). She seemed impressed, and probably told her bridge club friends that "I met a real Nevada prospector" - but with no burro or gold pan, only spaced-out, dirty, and with a broken-down truck.


Exploration By Jim Davis

Mother Earth hides her secrets well.
Not reluctant for us to find them ~
(Though it sometimes seems to be so).
But challenging us as children in her universe,
Wanting us to work-walk, think, sample, map, ponder.
Weigh a thousand negatives against a single plus.

Daring me to imagine ~
Contrary to peer's rejection.
Leading me astray ~
But always offering subtle clues
To Success.

Redeemed only with persistence,
Disbelief, contrariness, contriteness ~
Certainly Some Luck (the Devil's contribution?)
Be it good or bad.

I'm learning to read her dim pages ~
Full of questions.
Strive to win the answers.

But perhaps my confidence.
(No, that's eagerness!)
Has been premature.
For that Recent white deposit ~
Snow.
Has obscured everything ~
Quaternary & Before!


That coyote laughed at me
By Tom Steven

He laughed at me, I hated him

Darkness was approaching, and I,
Too long in saddle, was a good
Five miles from camp.
And he laughed at me from
Along a rim of rock, a long-cold
Lava flow, that was my nemesis

All day I'd searched without success
For that one small crop of rock
That would have told me this or that
Of what I sought to know
To turn the scientific world agog
With revelations keen and sharp
About that rim of rock

But I'd found it not and time was late,
My dinner cold, and worried partner
Sitting in the darkness, mad,
And tomorrow I must start again to try
To solve what I had not

When he laughed at me, I hated him

He laughed at me in haunting wails
That echoed off the canyon walls,
Reverberating up the trail
To die in whispers as the next
Outburst of mirth descended from the rim

Old Sam, God bless her patient soul,
Paid little heed, but headed back
Anticipating feed, and water, better yet.
But there I sat with miles to go,
Frustrated beyond hope, and when
That coyote flipped his lid in glee
I almost turned to run him down,
How dare he mock at me?

But was his laugh at me? Or life?
Did he mock me? Or celebrate?
We each were free in our own way
To do what we did best, and
Each had zest for what he did,
And neither needed envy. His hunt
That night was like my search--
NO GUARANTEES-
But tomorrow each would rise and go
And each would yip in joy

He laughed again, and I joined in


A Trek into Smuggler's Gulch
By Jim Davis

It was a clear but cold summer morning and the sun had yet to appear from behind the towering cliffs as I left my camp on the rushing stream next to Bald Mountain, a grassy knob rising up to over 10,000 feet above the old ghost town of Kirwin, Wyoming. By the time I had climbed up the boulder strewn coulee to the top of Spar Mountain the sun was warming the 12,000 foot high plateau, where I hiked easily across to the rim above the Middle Fork of the Wood River. Almost three thousand feet below, Smugglers Gulch lurked in a dark blue misty shadow, making it seem endlessly deep. I hoped for a fast and easy descent though, on the premise that there would be loose talus like the north side of the peak where the steep slope of small broken volcanic rock afforded a fast and exciting glissade down the mountain.

Earlier, I'd found lots of alteration and some pretty good silver values on the easy side of the peaks above Bald Mountain. Today I set out to explore the south side of Spar Mountain down in a high basin called Smuggler's Gulch. As I started my descent I found that the steep slope was a sheeted surface of bare smooth rhyolite rock. My hopes of a gleeful glissade faded as I slowly inched down the smooth rock which was getting steeper the further down I went down. The problem was that the slope was beyond the angle of repose for the talus. I soon realized that it would be extremely difficult to climb back to the top and find another route. I decided to keep to the one I had and pray that it didn't end at a cliff. Only a thin mantle of scree covered the smooth volcanic rock making it necessary, on some of the steeper pitches, to sit on my behind and slide cautiously down the decline.

I was sweating and my fingers ached from the sight of two thousand feet of precipitous mountainside over the end of my boots. It seemed that a distant grove of spruce trees was straight down. I nudged a loose rock with my foot. It bounded into greater and greater arcs as it bounced down the slope, finally taking one last leap into space and disappearing from view. It was a nasty preview of what could happen to me if I made a miscue. I worried, too, that I might become rimrocked; stopped by a cliff on the lower side and above by a bare rock lightly paved with loose volcanic rubble. Looking up it seemed that my retreat would be somewhere between steep and vertical. I took out my Brunton and checked the slope-it was 100 percent! I closed my eyes tight for a moment to fight off the numbing rise of panic.

My concerns about becoming rimrocked became more real as I realized that I couldn't see the mountain between me and the spruce grove which meant it was either steeper or a cliff - neither one a comfort. Changing course, I slowly traversed across to a small pinnacle jutting out the slope off to my left. To my great relief there was a narrow ravine running down alongside. It was steep but filled with large boulders that gave me enough of a foothold to make my way to a talus slope where I was able to descend on down to the more friendly environs of spruce forests at the bottom of Smuggler's Gulch. The sun was just painting the tree tops with morning orange, and the nearby creek chattered comfortingly, accompanied by the calming redolence of the spruce forest. A well-worn trail invited me down to the creek where I bathed my face in the icy cold water, letting out my tension with a deep sigh.

My relief was short-lived. In the primeval, forested depths of Smuggler's Gulch, next to the cheerful brook, I found the damp muddy trail deeply imprinted with fresh tracks of a grizzly. I set my boot inside one and had room to spare. The hot sweat on my spine turned to ice and I felt as though I was being watched. I broke out with a silly song and hurried up the dank ravine until I reached the sunny openness of the large meadows in the circ that stretched from timber's edge up to the high ridge two miles distant.

Out of the fores,t the trail wound through mountain meadows carpeted with shooting stars, harebells and other high mountain flowers. I put the specter of a charging grizzly out of my mind and traced down the source of alteration and vein fragments in the stream. As I ate my lunch I lay back in the thick, warm grass and contemplated the peaks around me. The view of colored outcrops brought me to my feet. I had rocks to collect, heights to conquer and miles to hike in order to make it back to camp by nightfall. On a detour back to the trail from my mapping I cut through a large patch of dense spruce and stumbled onto a large old log cabin. Inside the crumbling cabin it was as though someone had left fifty years or more before with the intention of returning but never did. Remnants of old assay equipment, including a large set of hand operated forge bellows, fostered visions of the old timers who lived here and labored in the nearby Smuggler Mine.

On the way back to camp the steep climb and descent was tempered by a decent trail. I was at camp as the clouds glowed golden red over the Continental Divide. The melody of the glacial brook wafted intermittently up to me, borne by the warmer breeze blowing up the valley. It was good to start a fire for tea and a pot of canned chili.


Field Work in the Absaroka Mountains
By Jim Davis

Azure intensity,
Undimmed by low altitude molecules,
Reflects off volcanic flows-Glacier polished.
Far below-Glistening, Falling, Flashing stream,
Its roar ebbing and rising with the breezes.
Whiffs of scent from windblown spruce.

Cumulus distant-
Black insides rumbling.
Cationic atmosphere charging senses.
Exuberance!
Oblivious to its danger.
Until nearby crRRACK-
Reverberating-
Awakens senses of mortality.
Nowhere to go;
Except leaping, sliding down the talus.
Slamming, Sudden dashing of rain and sleet.
Face dripping.
Rocks slickening.

Below lightning's reach-
Wind. Cold chills to the bone.
Thoughts of tent and fire and tea.
But clouds soon rip apart
Letting through the sun.
Sudden warming
Steam rising from the lichen.

I turn back.
Crest-bound.
Rocks to see and test and chart.
Exuberance returns.
Perhaps tea later.


Karnes Creek, British Columbia
By Jim Davis

Twelve miles up to the Mine.
No roads, the trail was dim.
Or not at all.

A motley crew we'd put together:
Ol' Len Maley, Prospector extraordinaire,
Guide and storyteller.

The con-recent address, The B. C. pen.
Embezzler, giant, but kindness in his heathen soul.
He packed o'er a hundred pounds and more.

Geologists, to sample the rocks, measure,
Wave our arms and take a note.
Enumerate the ore.

Giant ferns heavy with drizzle
Drench us as we climb the muddy trail.
Feet slipping. Packs weighing more with Rain and Distance.
Rushing, Violent, frothy stream beside, Challenging us to cross.

The only bridge- A fallen spruce.
Thick branches and slippery bark.
Conspiring to toss us into deadly waters.
Unseen boulders, bounding beneath the foam.
Rumbling with awesome crescendo.

There is no other way!
Soon stopped again-trail obliterated.
Chaotic forces unleashed. Rain, flood, landslide-
Wall of rocks, mud, snags, slumping trees and roots.

We struggle upward. Our nemesis Mud.
Our savior the roots.
Pulling, panting, shoving, lifting Frantic.
But gaining top-Exhilaration winning over exhaustion!

Thinking of savory victuals in high cabin.
(Ol' Len had gone ahead.)
And a spot of rye.
We press to beat the nightfall-
Spurred by Grizzly tracks
That mark the trail as theirs.


San Telmo Plaza, By Jim Davis

I walked a mile - actually two or three.
No hills to climb, no rocks to test.
But explored, instead,
The length of Independencia Street.
A ways from Hotel Nogaro, Buenas Aires.

I hoped to find an interesting
little sidewalk cafe.
Sip a beer and lunch -
Perhaps a Tostada, Argentine style.

The place is there - San Telmo Plaza.
But more.
A multitude of awning shaded booths
Antiques, etc. - Copper, brass, silver.
Precious heritage
To a generation gone.
Expendable, now,
For something needed more.

Lace curtains,
which graced some mansion.
What parties happened there?
Travelers from the old country peering through.
Politicians plotting overthrow.
(Perhaps Senora Peron stood behind the folds,
Waiting for her moment.

And books, tools, knick-knacks.
Some rocks (special kinds of course).
A pearly coil - fossil ammonite.
And jewelry, lamps (gas and kerosene),
!Maps!

The best I could not buy, only hope to engrave
In my mind - The People.
I watched as I sat
And sipped a cerveza,
grazing on salty peanuts in a fancy dish.

Bargainers - Most wanting not the item but a
haggle, the game.
Faces and voices and arms
Gesturing.

A couple - she wants the fancy lamp,
He some old 78's,
Big Bands from the 50's,
Scratchy on an old Victrola.

Lovers. Sitting in the shade of a giant tree.
They care not,
Except for themselves.

Sultry Gypsy. Seeking to sell old jewelry
With a fetching glance (the goods would not
sell themselves).
An octogenarian pair.
Holding court on folding chairs.
She in Victorian splendor,
Smiling prettily.
He with Tyrolean regalia
And flowing white beard.
Laughing, basking in the warmth of friends.
(What stories must they tell?)

Animals most magnificent Sprang from
Swift strokes of the Paper Cutter's scissors -
Horses, Tigers and Lions - delighting a crowd
Who soon moved on to watch the dancers.

A concertina set the spirit, making everyone
feel the rhythm.
Until the late afternoon sun
Seemed to change the mood.
And the crowds thinned - Home to rest.

Returning later
To feel magic of the night and moon


Petrified Pumpkins and a Gourmet Dinner
Jim Davis

The cowboys in the area swore that they had seen petrified pumpkins in the shadow of the Pumpkin Buttes east of the Powder River. It's true that the area hosted more than a few stills during the abolition days of the 20's and that might appear to be a logical explanation for some of the wild stories, including one about a western sortie by Ichabod Crane's headless nemesis. Trouble is, the flat topped buttes were known as the Pumpkin Buttes long before bootleg years.

It took Dave Love, a geologist with the USGS, to unravel the mystery, and by no less than some brilliant scientific thinking. Dave was born of Wyoming frontier stock and as such had strong intuitive genes relative to the geology of Wyoming. The cap rocks of the Pumpkin Buttes are remnants of uranium-rich volcanic ash sediments that once covered much of Wyoming. Dr. Love reasoned that a few million years ago conditions were right to leach out some of the uranium and redeposit it lower sandstones of the area. The first flight of a DC-3 carrying radiation detection equipment produced some significant anomalies. A field check by Dave found outcrops of beautiful oxidized uranium in sandstone, including round concretions of sandstone colored with orange uranium minerals the "petrified pumpkins"!

A freshman geology student at the time, I was lucky enough to be picked as a field assistant for the USGS camp to be set up on the Dry Fork of the Powder River. The purpose of the field party, overseen by Dave Love and headed by Max Troyer, was to study the uranium deposits and all facets of the related geology. There were experts in mapping, paleontology, mineralogy and stratigraphy, all toughened veterans of the War. And then there was me, a willing, but know-nothing 19 year old. Max solved the problem of what to do with me when he found that my mother had taught me to make biscuits and stew and summarily named me "camp cook".

I knew just what to do. One of the supply trailers was chock full of army surplus olive drab painted cans of beans and spam my favorite foods. I'd spice up the beans with pepper and mix in the spam, nicely browned and diced. With some fluffy biscuits I'd have a meal to satisfy the most epicurean imagination of a geologist famished from a day in the field.

That first evening I carried out a steaming pile of baking powder biscuits to the dining "room" where an aluminum folding table sat beneath a canvas stretched between the kitchen trailer and the office trailer. As the guys slathered the biscuits with butter and took the first bite, I was rewarded with a collective voice of approval. I hurried back to the kitchen for the piece de resistance. I set the simmering cast iron Dutch oven on the table and returned to the kitchen to serve up canned peaches (also army surplus and the slimy variety) while waiting for the continuing raves, wondering in what other ways I could serve up Spam. I heard the clang of the Dutch oven lid and a clinking of the spoon as the repast was ladled out. Then there was silence, broken by a single expletive. "S---!" Once again I heard voices, but this time they were low and had an ugly tone about them.

A few minutes later Max came into the kitchen. "Jim, I convinced the boys that you intended no malicious humor with those K-rations. They agreed to give you another chance. We'll put together some money and tomorrow you go into town and buy some steaks and stuff, but no beans. Oh, the biscuits were great."
My menu improved over the summer and I even had the opportunity to do some geology with the geologists who had once threatened to run me out of camp.


My First Field Vehicle
By Jim Davis

I've heard it said that my father was one of the best horsemen around Powder River country and could put together and light a "Bull-Durham" cigarette while spurring his horse on a full gallop rounding up cattle in the rough Wyoming hills. As for me, I was never much for horses, especially riding them. A bigger thrill was steering the Model-A truck when I was six pulling a plow guided by my father! That truck was the vehicle of adventure for my early youth. It took us to the mountains - to the remotest reaches accessible by the roughest of roads - hauling lumber and logs for a cabin on our mining claim, and occasional trips into remote fish-laden canyons. The momentum of a heavy flywheel on the engine could drag that old truck over impossible hills.

When I was in my teens a transient neighbor needed some quick money to get out of town. Jack Devine had the appearance and most likely the attributes of an old-west scoundrel so I was leery but he offered to sell me his Model-A runabout for $20. I bought it anyway although I'm sure my folks had their doubts about the vehicle, which consisted entirely of, from front to back a radiator, engine, gas tank in the cowling, steering wheel and a seat with no back. All of this was held together on a rusty frame perched on four wheels and thread-bare tires. Never-the-less it ran, with lots of noise. It was ugly, but it moved! I dreamed of the splendors of prospecting in the mountains.

On a wet country road, graced with no fenders or cab, my model-A could create an awesome fountain of mud which mostly comes down on the driver and passengers. Getting stuck was a normal part of owning a car in gumbo country. The mountains are rugged and the interesting places are only accessible by dirt roads that become impassable when it rains. Steering in the mud was for the most part out of control of the driver with preexisting ruts acting as sort of a general guide. Oft times the car involuntarily took to the barrow-pit where it was necessary to gun the engine for enough momentum to regain the road, although too much gas caused the car to shoot across into the opposite side. It took a bit of acrobatics and nursing of the accelerator and steering wheel to leave some semblance of sobriety in the tell-tail tracks.

Being a somewhat conservative chap I decided I needed to upgrade with a full-fledged body. My dad and I found an old pickup buried in a couple of feet of old flood debris and mud down on the Nowood River. Just right for camping gear and rocks. We hauled the muddy carcass to town and after a lot of elbow grease and black paint I had a pretty looking good field vehicle.

When I landed a job as field assistant with the U.S. Geological Survey in the Pumpkin Buttes I would drive the Model-A over the backcountry part of the Big Horn mountains to see my folks. On one such trip with another geologic assistant the return was an example of things that could go wrong.

First we got stuck crossing a ditch. We finally located a log for a lever. I set the throttle lever of the model-A and jumped out to help push down on end of the pole as the rear wheels spun, slathering us with mud. Suddenly the car hopped out of the ditch. I flailed too long in getting out of the ditch and the car was gone, rapidly picking up speed as it headed down the steep slope. It appeared to be a lost cause until a wire gate saved the day. The Ford hit the gate and by pulling over a few posts there was enough stretch to stop it. It took us a while to reset the posts while we anxiously watched an approaching storm.

Not long after we were on our way we were clobbered by a mountain downpour that left us hopelessly mired in the muddy road at the bottom of a deep mountain valley. We spent the night in an old cabin with a smoky fire. The next day, after begging a Basque sheepherder for a little cheese and waiting for the mud to dry, we extracted ourselves and again sped off.

Night had fallen by the time we reached pavement at Kaycee but we breathed a sigh of relief. I soon had the little Model-A smoking down the road until suddenly the fender to fender bar holding on the headlights fell off. It took us a while to get stopped and longer to find the headlights which amazingly, still worked after rewiring and reattaching with baling wire.

It was mid-night when we coasted into camp, hoping not to wake the boss. The next morning when I rose to do my duty as assigned camp cook I was relieved to find I wasn't fired but that everyone was thankful to have something besides my pancakes the day before. My joy turned to dejection by the sight of two flat tires on the Model-A.


A Patagonian Storm
By Jim Davis

It started as a distant sound, a rumble. My dream morphed from whatever it was to include the militia marching on the town of Malarque where I was trying to sleep. An Argentinean insurrection on the rise? The noise grew louder - persistent. Roused from my sleep I thought it must be thunder, but it kept coming, uninterrupted, louder and louder, then surging and stopping momentarily and picking up again. Like a rolling wagon full of rocks. The curtains in my room were lit with an almost steady pulsating flash that suddenly brightened and culminated in a thunderous crash. The continuous thunder reluctantly moved on, growing fainter as it moved along the foothills. The biggest darned potato wagon I'd ever heard!

I looked out the window. Rain was pouring down, slashes of refracted light from the lightning. My mind pictured the roads into the back country and into the uranium mines of Sierra Pintada - they would be a quagmire if this kept up.

The rains let up after breakfast and my CNEA geologist friends and I loaded up, and hoping that the gray skies would behave, we headed for the field. A geologic side trip into the canyon of the Rio Atuel to look at the thousand feet or so of Paleozoic rocks looked like a safe choice. We were to get more than we had bargained for.

A gravel road plunged abruptly from the flat llano grass-lands on the rim into the canyon. Far below, the rushing Rio Atuel seemed tiny but I was told that some giant trout have come from that river. When we had almost reached the river the misty clouds lowered, swirling fog around the rugged crags high in the canyon. Without warning the rain came again with a vengeance. As we drove down the canyon we could see small water-falls begin to trickle from the perched canyons along the main canyon rim. We watched in awe as the trickles quickly turned to gushing falls literally shooting out from the high arroyos. The water quickly turned red, dyed by the Permian red-beds that formed the cliffs. The fog would close in for a few seconds, then open up to reveal even larger torrents. It was as though the canyon had sprung a thousand leaks in its walls. The red waters churned into reddish mist as the falling water fell hundreds of feet before reaching the base of the cliffs. It was an awesome sight but we wondered how fast the river might rise - the road wasn't too many feet higher. The countless new-born streams gushing from the top seemed enough to multiply the main river significantly.

The waves on the river grew and turned red as the side streams disgorged their loads. With trepidation we forded some of the arroyos, hoping that the water didn't hide rocks and washouts that would strand us in the rising waters. Abruptly, the road turned upward but our relief from distancing the growing river was offset by the lack of gravel on the road and the once smooth road became a quagmire of red mud. Our Land Rover fishtailed back and forth, almost reaching the precipitous edge before whipping back towards the cliff. Another vehicle, also barely in control, came down the road. Hoping we didn't stall in the deep mud we slowed to pass we had a brief bonding as our eyes met and we waved with the comradery of strangers sharing common dangers. It was an hour of almost being stuck in the mud, veering time and again towards the precipice and skidding into the water filled ditch on the cliff side of the road before we silently breathed a deep sigh as we reached top and better roads. After a few miles we descended again, without concern for the roads this time, crossing the dam of Lago Atuel.

Later that day we arrived at the open pit uranium mine of Sierra Pintada where we observed not uranium geology but the spectacular sight of gushing waters filling the mine. We wondered if there was any similarity between the flooding waters and the braided streams in the older rocks--A weak attempt at making lemonade out of lemons. Tomorrow would be better.

A Fishing Trip
By Jim Davis

Back in the early 60's I worked for a company that had a custom uranium mill. The problem was we were running out of shippers who had ore. We also had an acid plant that produced cheap acid. We had gathered up all the properties with AEC shipping allocations and exploration had added a few reserves here and there but the reality was grim a mill with lots of capacity but little ore left and an acid plant that with lots of capacity and no place to use the sulphuric acid. It was a dilemma that had me as the ore buyer and geologist facing the loss of both jobs, which paid less than one anyway. It was time to update my resume' unless I could come up with more ore. There were some good prospects around but it wasn't that simple - The Atomic Energy Commission was the only buyer in those days and they were doing all they could to discourage any more uranium production - the country had enough bombs to blow us all into the next galaxy and the peaceful use of atomic energy wasn't developing as fast as hoped. The only properties that could be mined had to have ore certified to be on properties listed before a certain date.

On the east slope of the Wind River Mountains thirty miles distant, the flatirons of the Phosphoria formation hosted canyons that in turn hosted fine fish, if one could find a rancher who would give permission walk back up the canyons and climb down to a ledge where you could drop a line over the edge to the blue green pools where purported big cutthroat trout hung out.

The Phosphoria also hosted some phosphate beds with a reasonable grade - not as thick as those being mined over in Idaho but still, with the phosphate bed not too deep, an acid plant and a uranium mill that might be converted to a fertilizer plant. Well, it might be our salvation.

One of the ranches that guarded the slopes of Phosphoria belonged to old Sam H., a genuine hillbilly whose ramshackle place sat in a picturesque strike valley between the red bluffs of the Chugwater and the dip-slope of the Phosphoria. Sam held out in a region where the idyllic ranches were being snatched up by wealthy types seeking fishing spots that would double as a tax shelter. Of course they didn't want any mine in their back yard so I had to negotiate with the dwindling number of local ranchers - Sam was one of them. I never met Sam's wife but I would get glimpses of his daughter, a young woman who scurried amongst the outbuildings and peeked around the corners with an occasional cackle that was barely distinguishable from the wandering chickens. Initially Sam was unfriendly but after several stops, with in-depth discussions of the weather, cattle prices and the damned rich people, Sam allowed as how I could go back into the mountain slopes of his ranch to sample the phosphate. "Just be sure to follow the tracks through the meadow and close the gate on the ridge up from the house."

Crawling around the rims as I mapped and sampled I could see the fish-laden pools far below. I wondered if there were trails down where the streams first entered the canyons up the mountain - up where I would be on the Forest Service. Sam had warned me that he didn't want me fishing on his land.

Back in the office one day I mentioned the prime-looking fishing holes to Cal, the company lawyer. Before the conversation was over we had plans to make an early Saturday morning trip through Sam's, up the mountain and down to the stream where we would loll on the cool banks, drinking beer and pulling in fish at our leisure.

Saturday morning, still in the dark pre-dawn, we stopped at Sam's house, but no amount of door rattling raised Sam. Well anyway, I had permission to enter as long as I stayed on the right trail and closed the gate. No use stirring him up.

I carefully crossed the meadow and up the hill where Cal opened the gate. As I drove through I heard a "Whizzzz" followed dead-on by a rifle blast. Stopping the pickup I jumped out and yelled to Sam that it was me. The answer was two more shots, the bullets whizzing by too close for comfort.

"Judas Priest what are we going to do? He's trying to kill us!" Cal sounded a note of panic.

"I don't think so; he just doesn't know who it is." I tried to portray a sense of confidence that I didn't feel. "Hey Sam, it's me, the geologist," I yelled as loud as I could.

Whizzzz, Bang! "Cal, shut the gate and jump in, we're getting out of here!"

The rest of the story is a let down: It was a steep climb down to the Creek. The fish were suckers. We forgot the beer. The old abandoned road off the mountain, the only alternative to Sam's road, was blocked at the bottom by an ancient, wooden gate locked with a rusty padlock - I had Cal kick out the staples on the adjoining fence and stand on the wires so I could drive across - then the rest of the road disappeared into a hay field crossed by ditches filled to the brim. But we made it home in time for supper.

I stopped at Sam's a couple of months later to make amends - when I figured he'd cooled off. He fixed a piercing gaze on me and gruffed, "I guess my aim ain't what it used to be."


Boom before breakfast
By E. Jay Mayhew as retold by Jim A. Paschis

The U.S. government through the Atomic Energy Commission gave the impetus for the 1950's uranium boom. They supported uranium mining by a set price and guaranteed purchasing program as the post-World War II, Cold War developed and the nuclear electric power generating plants were being constructed. The Colorado Plateau sedimentary uranium ores contributed to the WW II effort and was the geologic province again searched for by many prospectors. I had left our Utah mountain cabin with my young son Bob and was traveling to Grand Junction, Colorado to meet with the AEC staff at their office. At that location they had installed test boreholes. Uranium ore was encased annularly about the casing of several grades that were precisely known, and was also known in radiometric / chemical equilibrium. Borehole logging companies could use these known zones to calibrate their probes to accepted depth and equivalent uranium grade from these true-scale prepared standards.

We had made an early start and planned to make a stop at a favored breakfast restaurant that sunny morning. The good spring snows were gone and made the desert wild flowers bloom colorfully. This was another reason the picturesque Moab, Utah area attracted tourists. As we entered the crowded restaurant we found the next to the last table available. As our menu and glass of water was placed by our busy waitress, a young family with a perky 5-year old was pointed to the last, small table in the center of the dining area.

The surge of breakfast diners placed a bit of a strain on the cook and the serving staff as you would expect. This caused later comers to just have to wait and listen to the fragmented conversations from ranchers on their left, prospectors showing off their new "Scintillators" and other travelers on their right. As the minutes wore on the perky boy became fussy and aggravated his parents as their breakfast order was yet to be served. In an elevated voice the father asked the boy to sit still and be quiet. This worked only for a minute, and the father repeated his admonishment but louder this time. The adjacent diners watched more closely as they knew the boy would likely misbehave again. He did, fussing for the last time. His father rose partly and leaned across the table with outstretched arms. The surrounding patrons' conversation hushed and those finishing their last cup of coffee and scrambled eggs became focused on the enfolding scene. Placing a grasp under his son's arms, the father picked him up and firmly plopped him back in his seat saying: "Now be quiet and sit still". The crowd now watched for the son's reaction. The boy bawled out and then cried loudly: "You broke my balls!" Those diners chewing food or with drink in their mouths launched it in utter surprise at the boy's frank revelation. Table napkins and bandanas hastily wiped chins and covered humorous smirks. Then the distraught young boy put each arm around to his back pockets and held out in his hands: two squashed ping pong balls.


Pathfinder by Jim Piper

The year was 1981, and I was a proud young geologist, and had practiced my trade for nearly a year. My background was rich in outdoors activities such as backpacking, hiking, and climbing. I admired and tried to emulate the persona of the trappers and mountain men who first explored what is now Colorado. Little did I suspect that soon my skills would be tested, and unlike college evaluations my success would be measured in terms of survival or death.

I was assigned to laboratory tasks during the winter. I had been hired on as a temporary field geologist the prior field season, and I didn't have a master's degree in geology. My laboratory experience began with prepping the samples that our group had taken during the course of the field season. After working in the lab for several months I advanced to the task of AA analysis, but my heart was not into working indoors.

It had been an unusually warm and dry year in the spring of 1981. In early March, I was given the opportunity to return to field work. My boss had just returned from Arizona, where he had acquired satellite imagery which covered the Collegiate Range. These were near IR Fe signatures, so it was necessary to verify the anomalies. I was really excited about this excursion because I had a bad case of cabin fever.

We traveled to Salida in my boss' Bronco, and planned to drive to Cottonwood Pass the next day. I was sort of nervous about working with my boss in the field. During the previous field season I had worked with his subordinates, but I had never worked with the big boss. I was too excited to sleep that night, but finally managed to get some shut eye. Unfortunately, I did not wake up early enough to pack my gear thoroughly, so I hastily jammed a heavy shirt and a down vest and bearpaws (small snow shoes) into my pack and scurried out the door. When we were about 10 minutes down the road I remembered that I had forgotten to take my heavy down coat. I thought to myself that it would be alright, because it was quite warm that morning, and I didn't want to make a bad impression on my boss.

We arrived at Cottonwood Pass around 11:00 AM and parked our vehicle at the trail head. We discussed geology as we hiked, and at one point my boss told me how he had become disoriented in a snow storm. I dismissed the notion that I would ever have problems being disoriented, after all I had been in a number of blizzards and hadn't had any problems.

We decided to split up, my boss would hike into the next drainage and then windup on the road which leads to the pass. I was suppose to hike back to the truck and pick him up down the road. As we departed I noticed that a storm was brewing to the west, in Taylor Park. As I hiked further I noticed that the storm had advanced almost to the crest of the range. Fog began to set in, and the wind picked up. Sleet came next, and was followed by snow. I had remembered that the first quarter mile where we had hiked in from the truck. It was along the crest of the divide which was covered with snow, and there was a cornice along the west side with a shear drop off into Taylor Park. Further down the trail the ground had been clear of snow. As the storm progressed, a thin veneer of snow was laid down. The snow was blowing directly into my face, and I could not see where I was going. Pretty soon, thunder began to roar, and lightning threatened my safety. I began to dive for the ground every time there was a lightning strike.

I decided to divert my path down towards Taylor Park because I was concerned that I would walk off a cliff if I wasn't careful. By the time I got down to timberline I was soaked. The snow was too wet to use the bear paws. I decided to make camp, because it was late in the afternoon and it looked like I would have to spend the night. I built a fire and started to get warm, and began to day dream about 40 naked women. The next thing I remember is that I looked up and saw that the storm had subsided, and I could see the crest of the divide. I considered my options, it seemed reasonable that I could make it up to the crest of the divide before the next wave of storms could blow in from west. So, I put out the fire, and started to climb as fast as I could. Before I could reach the top of the divide another storm blew in, and I couldn't see anything but the ground around my feet. I kept on going even though it was against the odds that I would be able to find the trail back to the truck. Suddenly I spotted foot prints in the snow which I was able to trace back to the trail head.

When I arrived at the trail head I didn't find the Bronco. The wind was blowing, and I was cold and wet. I spotted a plastic bag with orange flagging wrapped around it next to the spot where the truck had been parked. The bag contained a candy bar, an orange, a Bic lighter and a can of lighter fluid. I grabbed the cache and headed to the outhouse to escape from the wind. The outhouse door was frozen open, but it did offer some shelter from the wind. I ate the candy bar and orange, and spent the next half hour trying to stay warm with the warmth of the burning lighter fluid. It was quite dark outside, and a set of head lights approached the parking lot. It was my boss, driving up to take one more look to see if I had returned. He had contacted the Chaffee County Sheriff, and was told that a search party would look for me early the next day. The storm was too severe to begin a search late at night.


Rebirth of a Uranium Geologist
by U. K. Factor

The uranium price is $138 and probably headed for 200 the experts say! Now I have my chance I'll be this U-ranium boom's Charlie Steen! I'll put my budding career as an inventor on hold and head for the field. My optimism flags naught as I prepare for my last grand search for giga-gammas. Down in the basement I dig through my pile of discarded gadgets, starting with a 256K computer on the top (that must be larger than a 60 GB), down past the first gen GPS and a George Foreman sandwich grill with burned cheese remnants dribbled around the edges. (Actually, the sandwich grill was supposed to be a time-saving thing for my gold prospecting camp but after the voltage converter ran down my battery in a remote area I gave it up and stocked up on Ramon noodles which I warm in foil next to the catalytic converter.) Warning: Do not try canned stuff as the present day exhaust systems are HOT! Pork and beans smoke forever and are impossible to scrape from the undersides of a car. My wife was not happy, especially as her car now backfires. Further down I wax nostalgic as I grasp the rolled edges of a gold pan, its cold steel reassuring and much more useful than the plastic kind that don't work well for frying bacon and eggs. Aha! An 8-track video on prospecting. Whoops, it's for gold but with the present prices, yellow is yellow!

Towards the bottom I found a folder of drill hole maps uranium too! Ahah! The magic ticket to the latest rush. Darn good shows too six feet of 0.015 U3O8. Heck, with a bit of a stretch that might be ore! So what's a 43-101? Must be something Steve Jobs invented to sell to the hoards of new prospectors. U-pod?

Hidden below the maps is my old Precision 111B Scintillometer. It's once bright finish is stained with juices leaking from the battery pack (3 different kinds of batteries, one not even made any more.) By the way, did you ever try to get your shiney old pistol-grip 111B through the security line at the airport? A minor detail I bolted the scintillator to the front fender of my dirt bike and wired it to the headlight, which means my road surveys are limited to nights but I've found some of those old Wyoming bars still remember me from the last boom and won't let me in after 5 PM anyway, so it works out OK.

Unfortunately my eye-sight ain't what it used to and I might have trouble telling if I'm in altered sandstone or not, but after some experimentation I found that Guiness beer foams on favorable host sandstone. Better that than Crown Royal. I accidentally found this out when I was making a gamma survey on the bike and hit a prairie dog hole out on the rez.

A most important find in that gadget pile was my old rock hammer. Remember the ones with the leather rings for the handle? Maybe this time I'll put a notch or two in the handle John Wayne would be proud of.

Oh my Gawd!! I just heard the price has dropped to less than a $100! Does anybody want to buy a 111B, I need one of them fancy new ones anyway.

There may be snow on the peak, but my spirit ain't dimmed, UKF


Taxi-West Sumatra
By Jim Davis

A taxi (so they called it)-
Dented, pierced, rusted Survivor
of battles.
Insurrections?
Sometime in its forgotten past.
Doors faded blue, green, red and mud
But "better than the bus",
Medan to Sibolga.
(If you have nerves of steel)
"May Allah be with you."
Lurching, bouncing, careening.
Each approaching vehicle
Eminent Disaster!
Collision certain
until last second diversion.
Allah was with us.
Towns a lesser blur.
Markets, ox-carts, ancient Harleys,
smiling faces.
Snapshots in the mind.
Later at night
Each thump
a hole in the road?
Creature?
Or worse?
Better not to look!
Slowed finally
By steepening hills
Cresting in pines on caldera rim.
Gentle, cool breezes across
Lake Toba.
Graceful, sweeping profiles
Batak homes arching ecstasy
of the roofs silhouetted.
Bursts of starlight mirrored in
glassy stillness of paddies.
Serpentining off the Barisan Hills,
Beckoned by the Indian Ocean.
But stopped by the roaring surf
its mist cooling us, calming us
as we paid our fare.
Thankful to walk, and live.


May 2007

Huixtla Mine, Guerro, Mexico
By Jim Davis

El Sol?
Hot, Shimmering?
Beating down.

Craggy desert mountains
Sparse of green and shade
Overwhelming reds & yellows.
Spurious breezes send dust devils
aimlessly up the canyon.

Stark blue sky framed by steel.
A mine?
Quest for La Plata far below
in sultry tunnels.

Uneasy hands grip the cable
Leaning over black abyss
to board the swinging bucket.
"Descender"
Crowded? four in this steel can.

Shaft walls a blur.
Silence accentuated by
Pinging cable,
Echoing down the depths.
Our eyes upon that lifeline.
Wondering how bad that rust,
(Are those frays?)

Rock and mud -
A tunnel into humid cacophony
Drills, screaming air motors, muckers
Scooping broken rock -
glinting sulphides - paint of mud
Inches of vein, tons of rock.
"Arriba"


April 2007

Old Man Turner
By Jim Davis

Old Virgil Turner, a bachelor, lived in a log cabin across the street from our house in Ten Sleep. The cabin reeked from the odor of tanning deer hides, stale food and Mr. Turner. Sometimes a skunk would crawl through a hole in the stone foundation and add a whole new layer of fragrance. Mr. Turner never washed dishes, having no running water, but put them in the oven instead. He said that killed the germs better anyhow. The windows, stained from years of wood stove, kerosene lantern and cigarette smoke, admitted only a bit of depressing twilight, dimmed even further by an ever present haze of cigarette smoke and the smoldering wood cook stove.

Mr. Turner, gaunt and grizzled from a life in the mountains, kept his own council, marked by a stern demeanor, accentuated by his dirty broad brimmed hat, dented and roughly shaped ranger style. They said he'd killed a man once ("one in need of killing") and that he'd been a prospector in the mountains far south of town. Perhaps, I thought, he even knew the location of the Lost Cabin Mine. The killing and the mine, I imagined, no doubt were cause and effect.

I wondered what he kept in a hole in the floor, a broken void barely visible in the dirty planks. I thought perhaps it might be a hoard of gold, though sometimes he pitched his garbage there, followed by his dog to tidy things up. One time the old man made a deerskin pullover shirt. Unfortunately his tanning process, which consisted of peeing on the hide in a washtub, wasn't complete and instead of soft buckskin, he got rawhide which shrunk and hardened as it dried. I heard him calling one morning and saw him at his doorway, arms stretched out, held rigid by the drying rawhide. I cut the shirt off with my pocket knife before it strangled him. He was always grateful for that but never told me what, other than garbage, he kept beneath the floor.

After he died someone bought the place, fumigated it and dressed it up with new wallboard, floor, and even siding so it didn't even look like a cabin anymore. The place lost a lot of charm in this bit of modernization and I doubt if the new owners even checked under the floor.


March 2007

His First Day in the Field
By Ed Post

During the first uranium boom of the 1950s, when employed by the U. S. Geological Survey, I was mapping a quadrangle in Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks of the southern Black Hills. The Survey hired a college student from a northeastern college as my geologic field assistant. He'd never worked in the field, and had never been "out west" in his life. He flew to Denver, signed on, then flew to Rapid City, where I met him and drove him to our base of operations in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The next morning we headed for the field. By 10 AM we were both rather well- endowed with wood ticks, and not wanting to develop Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and being out in the boondocks, we stripped and picked the ticks off our bodies and clothes.

Later, while eating lunch, we watched a grasshopper jump into a ragged spider web and immediately get tagged by a black widow spider.

In mid-afternoon, we encountered a prairie rattlesnake, which we successfully circumnavigated.

Near the end of the workday, we were working along the edge of the Cheyenne River, heading for a bluff of sandstone, when we spooked a genuine mountain lion from the shade under the bluff big puffy claws, long full tail. It scrambled up the slope near the bluff and was gone in an instant, thankfully.

So for his first day in the field "out west" my field assistant had met for the first time in his life wood ticks, a black widow spider, a rattlesnake, and a mountain lion. I would have liked to have read the letter he wrote home to his family that evening.

He went on to independently map the Jurassic rocks (Sundance formation) in part of the quadrangle, ultimately earned a PhD in geology, worked for a while for an oil company, and eventually became a college geology professor.


February 2007

GAS HILLS, EXPLORATION CAMP, 1957
by Jim Davis

A banshee wail.

Wind.

Ceaseless before the storm.

Blasting sand against the trailer.

A pebble sometimes.

Startling us from our thoughts.

The 'Airstream' rocks.

As wanting to tumble

like an empty beer can across the prairie.

But stands

filtering through some grit

to season our supper.

Gas light flickering with unfelt drafts.

Plotting data from the drill.

Reading stories in the rocks

Of ancient streams.

Perhaps their sands host ore

far below.

Fitful sleep.

Dreams induced by gusting zephyrs.

Wakened by sudden, ominous quiet.

It will be snowing in the morning.

Mud beneath.

Mired, snarling trucks.

Samples mixed with ice.

Freezing fingers, snarling driller.

Coffee from a 'Stanley'

Warmth from rags soaked in diesel

Burning in a rusty drum

Black smoke, frozen gloves, wind again.

More coffee.

Drill stem turning, turning,

slowly sinking

Revealing Earth's secrets.

But Family waiting.

Damn, I'll be glad to go to town.


January 2007
HELICOPTERING IN NEVADA
Bob Kinkel

When I joined Texas Gulf Sulfur in 1970, I was assigned the Basin and Range in Nevada and California, and had one of the company's small Bell helicopters at my disposal.

Our first pilot, Wayne, was a Vietnam vet, and I soon learned not ask him to get exactly on the outcrop Iwas interested in. I did not enjoy standing on and then jumping off the skid. I also preferred open areas after he clipped the top of some junipers a few times.

One time he dropped me off and was to pick me up on a fair sized mine dump we had spotted a few miles down the range. He had to return to one of our fuel drops and was to come back about 3 or 4 pm. I got to the dump and saw him wandering around looking for the dump. I Had my signal mirror out and I `m sure I hit him several times, but no response. I even sent out a couple of signal flares. Finally on a sweep north he got my mirror signal and landed.

That experience, and others, made me aware of how difficult air searches can be.


One afternoon we were returning to Las Vegas from examining mines in California. I was watching the rocks go by and my assistant was talking with the pilot.

All of a sudden the engine died and we began to fall. My heart was in my mouth but I was able to yell at the pilot to do something. Finally the engine started, our falling slowed, and we continued our trip to Las Vegas. I asked the pilot what the hell happened and it turned out he and Mike were talking about autorotating. So he demonstrated.

When we got on the ground I firmly asked him not to do that again.

Later we had the self proclaimed "oldest living helicopter pilot in New Mexico." One time we got caught in a real windstorm when we were returning to Hawthorne. We were being tossed all over the sky over those big dumps at Gabbs. I yelled to land on the dump and Joe replied ,

"Land hell I'm just hanging on." We eventually made down and landed in the square at Gabbs and went to a saloon for a beer.


Another time, we were quite late getting to a remote area high on a range near Winnamucca. The wind had picked up and the Bell couldn't climb. Joe said he would get me there and headed out over the valley on the east side of the range. Joe started circling and climbing, and circling and climbing until we were at about 7,000 feet and about 5000 terrifying feet off the ground. I felt like we were a seed pod drifting on the wind. It was a scary half hour.

We headed west to the upper part of the range, but the winds were still too strong even up here. So we decended and headed home.


One afternoon after the winds had defeated us and we were heading home to Mina down a long pediment surface. It was a scary situation and I expressed my concern. Sort of jokingly I reminded him there were claim posts along here and asked him to look out. He appeased me by hovering over the sunbathing "girls" in Mina.

My fear of claim posts spread very rapidly through the company, even to New York, and we all laughed about it.


December 2006
A hippy ride- A modified excerpt from "Alone- Guardian Angel- Gunga din"
A Memoir by Warren I. Finch

Recently, I was reminded of an experience I had over 50 years ago in May 1952, when I was driving to Circle Cliffs in Utah from Grand Junction. I left in the morning and drove down U.S. 50 with the Book Cliffs to the right and past the trail south to the Yellow Cat uranium mines, and on across the border into Utah. This took me to the town of Green River where I crossed the river, turned south off U.S. 50 on to an unimproved trail-like road (now paved State Road 42) through the desert, where here and there active sand dunes covered and blocked the road, past the turnoff to Temple Mountain in the San Rafael Swell, and finally to Hanksville. I left Hanksville and drove along the Fremont River in my Jeep Station Wagon in mid-afternoon heading for Teasdale, where I was might spend the night. I noted a strange problem with the front end of the truck and stopped several times to see what the problem was. A bit later, all of sudden the Jeep veered sharply to the right onto the shoulder of the narrow dirt road and stopped. I got out and saw the right front wheel jammed up into the fender, apparently the axle had broken. I did not expect any traffic in this remote area, but waited and finally decided to camp.

So, I started to prepare to camp here for the night. I had finished my dinner, cleaned up, and got out my wooden folded cot and sleeping bag ready for the night. The sun was getting ready to set. In the quiet of the desert, all of a sudden I could hear a vehicle coming toward me miles away. I started to break camp and was finished by the time an ancient car drove up with steam jetting up out of the radiator. It looked like a 1930's Dodge. A young man with a dark beard yelled out, "Got any water?" When he got out, I noticed that he had on what appeared to be homemade clothes. A strong odor of muskmelons, onions, and fruits emitted from the back seat. He again wanted to know if I had water for the car radiator. I did, and we poured some in. He said he had driven up from the mouth of Red Canyon, where his hippy friends were sort of permanently camped with the Colorado River beach for swimming and a vegetable garden. I camped there myself late in 1953 after they had left, and their garden was still producing.

He had driven down White Canyon from Clay Hills ridge and ferried across the Colorado River at Hite. He said that he was going to Teasdale about 30 miles away, exactly where I needed to go; he agreed that I could go with him.. So I got ready and locked the Jeep. We left, and he talked about his life as a hippy, not working and owning anything; he quickly said that the car was his sister's, who lives in Teasdale. Soon, we came to the steep Blue Hill through the Mancos Shale, and practically without brakes, we flew down mercifully making all of the sharp curves. Stopping at the bottom at a creek, he refilled the radiator. Driving over gentle terrain, we reached Teasdale in the dark after 9 PM, and I was dropped off at Neal Henricks, who was working with J Fred Smith on a USGS project in the Capital Reef area.

The next morning, we phoned Grand Junction, and we were told that Bill Brueggemeyer would bring a new wheel assembly the next day. I spent the day with Neal visiting and sampling the old Oyler uranium mine. The next morning Neal took me out to the Jeep, and finally Bill with a helper arrived before noon; Neal returned to Teasdale. They got busy with the repairs, and we camped there that night. They finished installing the new wheel assembly by noon. I was able to continue on my way and drive up a dry wash the only way into Circle Cliffs to examine new uranium prospects in the Shinarump Conglomerate. Not a single car came by while Bill, his helper, and I were there, well over 24 hours and a night!


November 2006
On the Colorado Plateau during the first Uranium Boom
By Warren I. Finch

Uranium like all metals occurs naturally in forms called deposits that can be mined to obtain pure metal for various uses by the human society. The metals that were deposited in the geologic past prefer special kinds of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and favorable geologic settings. In the United States, most productive uranium ores are in sandstone formations of certain geologic ages. The first choice in the Colorado Plateau was the Jurassic Morrison Formation formed in sedimentary environments during the time of the dinosaurs. Other choices in the Plateau were sandstones of Cretaceous, Triassic, Permian, and Pennsylvanian ages. Late in 1951, a new project for the USGS Colorado Plateau Uranium Program in the first uranium boom was undertaken to examine the sandstone deposits in formations other than the Morrison. After three years of experience in uranium exploration in the Uravan Mineral Belt, I was chosen to undertake the USGS Pre-Morrison Uranium Project.

The decision was made to study mainly the uranium-bearing Triassic sandstone formations, the second most common host of uranium deposits on the Plateau. Most Triassic uranium ores were in Utah and Arizona. Known Triassic uranium mines were in the Temple Mountain District in the San Rafael Swell in eastern Utah and in Monument Valley in northern Arizona. These mineralize areas, reconnaissance of other favorable areas, and mapping of newly found deposits, such as Steen's Mi Vida, Pick's Dirty River Mine, and smaller mines at Seven Mile, White Canyon, and Circle Cliffs were targets of study during the period of 1951-1954

In 1952, the first year of field work, I usually made two 10-day reconnaissance field trips each month, commonly without a field assistant. Uranium exploration was booming throughout the United States. I drove all the active bulldozer trails being built into steep canyons and on mesas to explore for uranium in eastern Utah, especially in the inter-river area between the Colorado River and the Green River and the large anticlinal structures the San Rafael Swell, Circle Cliffs Dome, and Monument Valley Upwarp in the Utah and Arizona desert. At the end of the day, I camped at the place where I stopped; I was alone usually with no other people passing by during the night. I slept in a sleeping bag on a wooden folding-cot sitting on the ground, and the cot headed to the open door of the Jeep station wagon. I slept alone under the stars. Only once during 1952 did rain make it necessary to put up a lean-to tarp shelter at the side of the vehicle.

In the desert, I had to get by on two five-gallon cans of water for as much a one week. With my Bunsen burner stove on the rear down-dropped door I heated my supper in open cans of stew or some other complete meal set in a pan of water. Later as the sun set, I used the warm water to wash my hands and face before bedding down at dark. Once camping at a site that had been used by others, the coyotes came up begging for food and they commonly howled in the night air. Another memory was pack rats investigating the open wagon who I felt tripping over my sleeping bag. Mountain lions were reported at some of the higher campsites, but never were seen or heard. In fact, my wife Mary was with me on one trip where we camped in mountain lion territory, but I never mentioned it to her until afterwards.

Although usually working alone, on rare occasions a field assistant was along on the trip. Maps of the region were essentially nonexistent; old regional geologic reports had poor maps with which to work. My Texaco road map was the best. In a story about USGS uranium studies on the Colorado Plateau by Mary Rabbit, there is a photo of me standing on a high point in the middle of the San Rafael Swell with a caption "A USGS geologist studies his geologic map in his reconnaissance of uranium on the Colorado Plateau". The map in my hands was the Texaco road map; it was the best map available at that time for my work. The program to produce 7.5- minute topographic maps in uranium areas had just started, so those modern maps were not available in 1952.

The results of this project were summarized in my first substantial career publication, the 1959 USGS Bulletin1074-D, on favorable areas for uranium exploration in Triassic rocks on the Colorado Plateau. A preliminary Trace Element report of about the same name was published in 1955.


October 2006
A Little Copper and a Chicken
By Jim Davis

From the Continental Divide Motozintla first appears as a closely packed village deep in a headwater valley of the Rio Grijalva. Viewed through the giant ponderosa pines from the highway just over the divide it is a pleasant sight. The town seems inaccessible from the cliff- carved highway that winds its way down into the valley. The highway perches almost directly over on the village, only at the last minute finding an exit to the town as the highway touches the valley floor. From the neat, flower lined zocalo we could see a large white mission church up in the rugged hills above town, solitary and magnificent in the late evening light. Beyond the mission the orange glow of the setting sun on the higher desert hills provided a peaceful background. (Perhaps the peace was illusionary, a couple of years later a man was burned at the stake for molesting a child!)

The next morning we could not find the usual green Petrofina filling station. Gasoline was for sale at a small store near the edge of town, we were told. After some searching we finally found the place in a back yard with a stack of barrels. Gasoline was obtained by siphoning out of a barrel into a five gallon bucket and carefully pouring it into the pickup's gas tank. While waiting for my turn I was approached by a disreputable looking type who wanted to change a wrinkled US $5 dollar bill for pesos. As I started to accommodate him Adrian, one of our interpreters, grabbed the money. "No, it's a counterfeit!" Adrian yelled as he thrust the grubby bill back at the man, explaining that it was a favorite trick to mask the fake by severely wrinkling and soiling it.

The day before we had prowled the hills along the Continental Divide on the Sierra de Soconosco. Mist wafted around us as we drove along the mountain crest. Through occasional holes in the fog we could see the Pacific to the west. The habitations are far apart up here, little white farm villas surrounded by maize on the steep mountainsides. These mountains are restless. Thick beds of white volcanic ash attest to recent eruptions from Volcan Tacana a few miles to the south. Thousands of feet below, in the valley of the Rio Huixtla, plumes of steam rise from hot springs at the village of Toliman. There are signs of copper porphyry in rocks laid bare by torrential runoffs. We found the high road from Buenos Aires to El Porvenir, despite recent repairs, barely passable because of the recent movement along a major fault traversing across the Sierra. This Orizaba fault zone bends to the north and parallels the Pacific coast for miles; to the east the same zone continues into the Caribbean. Crumbled sections of rock, still dusty from grinding movements, had dropped sections of the road several feet and seemed to be ready to creep again. The mountains are so high and steep here that when the road moves again it may travel from the zone of Ponderosa pine down to the tropics. We crossed the unstable ground with some trepidation. Further west at a coffee finca, along the same fault zone, the mountain always groans and moves after rainstorms. Sometime before a major section of the finca road had moved a thousand feet down into the valley. Just to the west the seafloor is ramming under Central America at a horizontal rate of three inches per year.

After filling up with the questionable gasoline, my interpreter Anna and I depart Motozintla for the lower parched hills near Mazapa. We will meet the rest of our reconnaissance party later in Frontera Comalapa.

A few miles down Arroyo de Mazapa Anna and I park under the shade of the trees next to a dusty creek. A trail threads its way through a miserable variety of spiny cactus and rocks black with desert varnish, both of which seemed to accentuate the shimmering heat. We were on the track of another mina rumored to exist in the dry hills above Mazapa. A mile or so up the trail we could see a patch of green marking a small rancho, usually the best place to start when looking for anything in this forsaken country-side.

Two ladies reluctantly came onto the patio and told of us of a possible mina up the dry arroyo beyond the house. I set out to have a look while Anna stayed to quiz the women further, knowing she might learn more as they became more comfortable with our presence and Anna's knack of getting information out of otherwise reticent natives. The mine turned out to be only a small depression, a possible prospect pit but the geology was lacking. By the time I returned an hour later the three women were talking and laughing as though they were long time friends. Consuelo, a tiny young and very pregnant woman, had informed Anna that she knew of bigger minas a few miles away in the hills of Arroyo Chimalapa. She would be glad to take us there and went to fetch her umbrella. I was more than a bit reluctant, not wanting to add mid-wife to my dossier, but Conselo ignored my protests and seated herself in the pickup. I had a guide.

Her directions took us several miles down the main road then a few miles to the end of a dirt road along the Rio Chimalapa. From there it would be only a couple of hours walk, she said. We looked at her she seemed more pregnant than when we started. We looked up into the barren, rugged hills and became even more concerned about the wisdom of letting this tiny pregnant women trudge several miles, but while we were debating, she started up the trail without so much as a glance back.

The first mile or so was pleasant; in and out of the shady trees growing along the river and sometimes dropping down next to the stream where the humidity, heavy but fragrant with blooming flowers, was at least a change from the scorching sun on the side hills. At one spot where the sparkling water chattered over the cobbles we came upon a cheerful family of farmers from the region of Chimalapa, far up the river. The men were unloading burlap bags full of beautiful large onions from their burros. The women sat on boulders with their bare feet in the stream, washing the harvest for a trip to the market in Motozintla. Several laughing children played in the water nearby. The neat stacks of white onions on the rocks and the happy people were a canvas of Mexican peasant life. As I impressed the scene upon my mind for a later sketch I could not think of anything that might improve their happiness. Perhaps that's a naive supposition, but then they didn't appear to envy our hot little party.

A short distance beyond the trail crossed a rusty, swinging cable suspension bridge and angled sharply away from the verdant riparian utopia. The well worn trail climbed steeply up dusty switchbacks. The blistering heat of the dry desert hills was barely affected by the meager shade of an occasional giant cactus. Consuelo moved steadily ahead of us, sometimes disappearing up the trail. Eventually she would wait in the skinny shade of a cactus, pushing on the minute we arrived. The narrow trail climbed higher and higher, the river only a thread of green in the valley far below. Still Consuelo kept going until we finally entered a large arroyo where we soon found her standing beside an old mine adit with spectacular green copper minerals in the outcrop and scattered down the hill below. Things were looking up for the prospector in me although my other senses were suffering from the heat and dryness. A bit beyond the old mine I was surprised to see a sprinkler system watering the slopes of the arroyo. The enterprising granjeros had rigged up the gravity fed irrigation from a spring further up the steep valley. More copper prospect holes are carved into the hillside along the trail.

Another patch of green foliage came into view up the trail and we soon arrived at a little rancho where the word of visitors spread rapidly and family members came out of the hills as by magic. We were served some cool water and the men told us about fabulous minerals around the rancho. One of the men took me up into the rocky hills out of the ranchero where he showed me an area of mineralization, this time lead and silver. As I sampled the rocks at one point along the trail a handsome young caballero, dressed in fine clothes, his saddle ornamented with silver conchas, came riding down the trail on his little burro. I wondered what his business and where he might be going, for it was a long way to the nearest poblacion of any note. Perhaps he was courting.

It turned out that Consuelo was somehow related to the family at the ranchero. By the time I returned later in the afternoon she had had a good visit and bought a chicken. In addition to my samples I carried a bag with the chicken on our way out. I carefully gripped the bag by its side to keep it from dragging, and at the same time holding the sack away from me to avoid any dripping blood. Halfway down the trail I happened to look down and was quite surprised to see the chicken's head protruding from the top of the sack. It was quite alive and enjoying the trip without so much as a cluck. Consuelo and I must have been a sight, walking together--she barely reaching above my waist and me with a live chicken in a bag!

Jim Davis
September 20, 2006
May 2006
35mm Artillery at the Schwartzwalder Mine Vent Raise - Part I
By Jim A. Paschis

Peak prices for uranium ore encouraged exploration in the late 1970's. Mines in operation continued development and production. So also did mining of uraninite breccia veins at the Schwartzwalder orebody. These continued along the steeply plunging, brittle, iron-rich, host rock trend. Accordingly, there was a need for more radon ventilation and secondary escape for underground staff in that vicinity. The mining trend was mainly downward but with a horizontal component to the southwest. In that direction, Western Nuclear leased, and was involved in core drilling, their adjacent Section 36. They had mentioned some significant silver mineralized core intercept often associated in vein-type uranium ore.

Mark Davis, Erik Bruner, Bill Lyman, and Larry Van Lanningham of Cotter Corporation explained the engineering needs for the ventillation development project. As staff exploration geologist peripheral to the mine, my mission was to present to them borehole location options based on geology, access, and future mine development. They chose option two, 700 feet in elevation above the mine workings for the borehole collar. The base of this planned boring was accessed though the Steve (1st) level adit then down the Number 2 Shaft 700 feet, far out along the 7th level drift.

I was concurrently involved with surface NX core drilling exploration, seeking structural, stratigraphic, and mineralization potential between the selected vent borehole collar on Section 25 and the adjacent Western Nuclear lease. J.S. Redpath Inc., specified the vent pilot borehole was to be 10 inches in diameter. They drilled it using four-foot-long, 900-pound lengths of steel. The pilot hole was up-reamed 1,400 feet, enlarging it to 96-inch diameter from the 7th level, using a hydraulic-powered Robbins Raise Borer. These surface efforts indicated that Schwartzwalder mining was developing headings straight toward exploration drilling targets across the fence on Section 36. Western Nuclear staff geologists Jim Johnston and Jack Stark noticed this intense activity and became interested and cordial.

Winter came on and deepened as Boyles Brothers Drilling Company pumped water from the mine up to the drilling sites for the Longyear 35 rigs. The output from the positive displacement pump was conveyed through thick-walled, high-pressure capacity, orange plastic, 35mm i.d. tubing. As single digit temperatures arrived, the pump was either to be running or the water line was to be completely back-drained. Western Nuclear trucked their drill water in from a long southern road and therefore were not concerned about water line freezing.

I drove up the hairpin switchbacks and crossed over dumps from portals which had been the discoveries worked by Fred Schwartzwalder back in the early 1950's. I gave him a mental salute, noting that if the after life permitted communications with those gone before, this prospector would be very high on my list to hear his uranium discovery story that I had only known third-hand. Cotter kindly granted access for Western Nuclear staff also along this same steep roadway. Should Western Nuclear make a discovery that led to mining, that ore would probably be developed through Schwartzwalder workings and milled at Cotter's facility in Canon City.

As Jim Johnston and I both arrived near the rigs, it was an ominous sign to see the driller disconnecting the thick water line at the whip check. Frozen almost stiff was that long orange line that snaked back down into Ralston Creek Canyon. Armed with propane torches, the drillers walked along the line and lifted it up. With the internal cracking sound of frozen solid contents, we knew it would be a while before drilling would start that cold sunny day. The line was heated with torches and the warming sun peered over the crest of the Fountain Formation hogback to the east. As we walked over to the line a bit later, I became optimistic as the water seemed to be surging and squishing past the ice blockages. Slowly foot-long segments of ice rods began to emerge at the open end of the line. The pump at the source likely sensed the blockage being released and revved up a bit more. Then Jim and I noticed more ice "cores" began moving, leaving piles like frozen "doo-doo" with spurts of water between. Then the discharge paused and suddenly the ice really broke loose, launching cores in all directions as the free end of that orange viper recoiled indiscriminately - even towards us! We ran for cover behind the Western Nuclear white Ford pickup. The next round came at us and with a loud "bang!" and put a dent in the right rear fender. A few more pieces came out, then continuous liquid flowed and we were less intimidated.

As the artillery ended, Jim asked me how it was going with the mine and raise-bore whose collar was in sight of the Western Nuclear property line. I explained the mine was producing more with the rising price of U308. It hoisted out a lot of barren mica schist rock from the 7th level as the up-reaming started. The raise bore was situated where management had asked me to select a site that no likelihood of ever being mined deep underground might compromise the vent. Jim's face turned pretty sad as he realized that Cotter Corporation felt sure no Schwartzwalder uranium ore trended toward Western Nuclear leased ground. Jim drove away to check on progress at his drilling rig across the fence.

Part II

This continues the previous account of the Robbins raise borer collared from the surface at 7,200 feet down to 5,808 feet above msl. This eight-foot diameter section was to exhaust air conveyed through the active uranium stopes and underground workings. The internal No. 2 shaft and the smaller, inclined calyx intakes, with 75 horsepower fans, were the intake supplies for fresh air to the miners. Stoped out workings were sealed off with bulkheads for radon control and ventilation efficiency at the Schwartzwalder mine. The exhaust raise was in the poorest host rock for uranium vein mineralization: the very ductile mica schist. Whenever the schist was intersected by ore-bearing veins, they would terminate mineralization and alteration within about five feet of strike. As planned, the exhaust borehole was positioned in mica schist so to be remote from any future mining thereby maintaining its structural integrity to the 7th level of the mine.

I was later informed that the raise was successful and it would be extended by a second segment to reach the bottom of the mine. I refused to guarantee that mica schist would continue entirely below the borehole. At this time the internal No. 3 shaft reached the 19th level some 4,555 feet above msl. Essentially, this meant an additional 1,253 feet of pilot boring followed by hydraulic- powered, eight-foot diameter up-reaming. However, below the 7th level this segment could probably depart the mica schist and enter the brittle host rocks of the mine and included: garnet biotite gneiss, quartz biotite schist, quartzite and a more ductile, hornblende gneiss. This lithology at the deposit was controlled by the complexly folded, Precambrian-age, overturned synform with steep southeast dipping limbs.

The raise borer was mobilized down the No. 2 shaft, out to the face of the 7th level and set up close to the base of the upper 1,200 foot segment of the raise. Tramming of cuttings generated by the pilot boring were from the 7th level, then up the No. 2 shaft and out the Steve (1st level) portal. When the pilot bore reached the 19th level, the eight-foot diameter reaming head was then attached. Cuttings were generated, with muck falling to the 19th level. LHDs hauled muck to the loading pocket near the base of the No. 3 shaft which was collared on the 10th level. From there transfer was then to No. 2 and out the portal. About halfway up as up-reaming progressed, the rate of advance had exceeded the removal of cuttings on one occasion. Effort was made to catch up by the development crew on the 19th level. This seemed to have been accomplished until it was observed that as the up-reaming resumed, no cuttings were dropping down to the 19th level. Mine engineering staff concluded that the cuttings had bridged the new borehole somewhere below the reamer head and the 19th level. Water from the 7th level was used to add pressure and concurrently wash out finer cuttings to release the bridge. A small volume of water made it through, then the Mike Gallagher, mine surveyor, heard the sound of cuttings and water coming down the partially completed part of the borehole. Then followed a tremendous cascade that began filling the face and flowed down the grade toward him to the level station a length of 1,100 feet. He ran for the No. 3 shaft but no cage was at the station. He chose to turn toward and climb up the ladder escape way. There he was safe as water and fine cuttings reached up to the second rung. The borehole was completed for a total length of nearly 2,600 feet with a hefty airflow out the top at the collar.

Back on the 7th level, I had a look down into the eight-foot diameter of darkness with my mine light and decided that a borehole uranium log should be obtained. A uranium logging contractor was called in to make the equivalent uranium (eU) survey beginning at this level. Within about 70 feet a strong gamma response was measured. I then directed that three other logs be taken along quarter circle positions of the three remaining quadrants. Additional gamma intercepts, both above and below the initial one, were then detected. From these four gamma intercepts, I was able to report the approximate dip and strike of a +1% eU intercept to John Haley, chief mine geologist. John was reasonably pleased. After some calculations from underground diamond drill core intercepts and comparisons on working mine cross sections, he concluded that this uranium vein intercept just below the 7th level, emanated as a horsetail, dipping down a distance of approximately 1,150 feet between the 14th and 15th levels from the Illinois vein. (This east-dipping vein was the master structure for all the east-dipping horsetail veins in the mine.) This further attested to the essential importance of the brittle host rocks because, here the vein strike length was significantly shorter than the dip dimension. Uranium production continued 20 more years at the Schwartzwalder Mine.


The Miner & the Geologist
by James F. Davis

Joe Highsmith was a good miner. He knew how to put a hole into rock and get the values out. His mines often showed innovations gleaned from his widely varied experience; everything from a specialty welder at movie studios, mechanic, inventor and builder of underground mine equipment, to miner and prospector. Give him a gold pan and he'd find gold. Give him a pile of iron and he'd turn it into a piece of mining equipment. Then he'd take that equipment and go find something to mine. He was good at any thing he undertook, but he was a miner at heart.

There's something special about a small underground mine. Anyone can dig a hole on the surface, but takes a special breed of miner to burrow deep into a hill or sometimes go straight down, surrounded by rocks and darkness and danger and take the adit or shaft where they want it to go, safely, for maybe only a little bit of ore. And make it pay. No reserves blocked out ahead of mining like a large company - Just experience, astute observation, intuition, hope and often times luck.

Several few years ago I was the geologist for a custom uranium milling company. One of my jobs was to help the independent miners with sampling, surveying, geology or whatever it took to get more ore coming into the company's hungry mill. Joe was one of our shippers. From little mines in limestone caverns and old karst topography filled with uranium-rich rock he mined and shipped occasional truckloads of high-grade uranium ore to our mill.

On one trip I visited Joe at his Dandy uranium mine on the Pryor Mountains in Montana. I found him down in the small mine alone. He had sent his miners home after they had mined out the last of a high-grade pod of ore in a big cavern they had been working for months. The cavern had been filled with mud and rocks from ancient floods and later enriched with uranium.

Now it was just a big dark hole a hundred feet below the surface. With the mining it had been reconfigured back to the barren limestone walls of the original cave. Joe and his men had scraped out every last teaspoon of pay dirt. The walls of the reconstituted cavern were as clean as a well licked cake frosting bowl. The situation for finding more ore looked glum.

From his perch on a limestone boulder in the big cavern Joe looked happy to see me. Joe was a lot like the rock he sat on steady and stalwart, even squarely built. I looked around the stope at the stark walls of limestone. Here and there little vugs in the wallrock were lined with dogstooth spar crystals that glistened like fake diamonds. It was nice to look at but for the possibility of more uranium ore it looked pretty hopeless to me. Joe didn't seem down though, and after our hellos he asked, "Jim, what do you know about caverns? Why are they in some parts of the limestone and not in others?"

I knew Joe well enough to gather that he was working on an idea and probably knew more than I did about the subject, but he was pretty clever when it came to ferreting out every bit of information before he acted. He'd ask simple questions and always get something out of the answers.

"Joe, I'm betting that you know more about these caves than I do but I'd venture a guess that this Madison Limestone was folded and thrust up as the Pryor Mountains in late Cretaceous time -about 60 or 70 million years ago. About the same time as the Bighorn Mountains over across the canyon. The folding would have created fractures in the rock that were a starting place for water to gradually dissolve away the limestone. I suppose that the climate was a lot wetter than it is now, water gradually widened the fractures into caverns, especially at the intersections of the cracks.

Later," I paused, thinking I had seen the whites of Joe's eyes as he rolled them up. He didn't smile though, so I continued unabashed. "Later, some of these caverns collapsed, forming sink holes or karst topography. These sink holes and some of the caverns were later filled in with sand and mud. After that the calcite and selenite crystals were formed, then mineralized ground water circulated through the fill, depositing the uranium and a little bit of vanadium.

Joe sort of smiled. I could almost hear him thinking. Okay Jim, I know you're a geologist, but how's that going to help me find more ore? Instead, he was polite and asked. "Okay, are the location of these caverns predictable at all?"

"Gosh, Joe," I said, trying to come up with a geologically intelligent answer, "not very, except maybe there's some relationship to the fracture intensity and pattern. Of course you would expect the intersection of major fracture zones to be the best place. Oh, yeah! There is a certain stratigraphic level in the Madison limestone that is more cavern forming, so I guess you would stick with that zone."

Joe nodded, looking pleased as though I might have confirmed another piece of the puzzle, or maybe he was happy that I had started talking common sense instead of going off on some theoretical tangent. Jumping down off his perch he walked over to the far wall of the cavern. There he put his finger on a tiny crack running vertically through the limestone with just a film of yellow uranium mineral in it.

"Jim, I've been studying the caves we know about around here and there is sort of a rough spacing. That would fit with what you just told me about the spacing of fractures. I'm wondering if we drift along this crack for a hundred feet or so we might find another cavern filled with ore." That was Joe. It was really his idea but he was making me feel good, as though my input was the key he'd been looking for.

I looked at the crack with its fingernail thick coating of yellow uranium and inwardly wondered if I should tell Joe to forget it and look for something better. I didn't, because I knew he was going to do it anyway and then maybe it wasn't a bad idea after all. In looking for ore you can expect the unexpected. It took guts too. The cost of driving a hundred feet or more of adit wasn't chicken feed, especially if it's your own money with poor odds on getting it back. But that's mining. Miners like Joe often went broke but they never made money by being shrinking violets either.

A couple of months later Joe called me, wondering if I would mind coming up and doing some surveying for him.

"Sure Joe, I'm due to make the rounds up there anyway. By the way, how's the exploration drift coming along?"

"Well, Jim I wanted to talk to you about that too. I'll save it for when you get here."

"Crap!" I muttered to myself after he hung up. "I should have told him to not to spend his money on that damn crack."

I left early the next day and was at the mine by mid-morning. I could hear equipment working down in the mine and was putting on my hard hat and light to go down when I heard one of Joe's handcrafted ore-haulers grinding up the spiral ramp that led down into the underground mine. In a minute it came roaring out of the tunnel, bouncing on its large tires with a load of rock in the bucket. It was Joe driving, grinning like he had a joke to tell me. At least he was smiling. I waited until he dumped the load then walked over as he climbed down out of the machine.

"Jim, take a look at this." We shook hands and he led the way around to a pile in front of the hauler. He didn't have to say anything. There was a pile of the brightest yellow ore one could ever hope for. "We drifted for hundred and twenty feet along that skinny little crack!" Joe chortled. "Nothing! Then there it was. It's a damn big cave and half filled with stuff like this.

"Tell me, Jim, is there any way you could map out these fracture systems on the surface? I was getting pretty nervous by the time we'd drifted through a hundred and twenty feet of barren limestone."

Mining and frontier stories. This series of stories was instituted in 2004.


Iron, Tin and Ptarmigan
GOT GOLD ?
Near the mouth of Pacific Creek, Wyoming U.S.A.
by Jim A. Paschis

Three of us left our home town bound for college. Chester got his PhD in astrophysics at NMIMT, Rich got his BS in chemical engineering at Lafayette and an MBA, and I became a geologist. Working for Chester, I was involved in examining gold placers that might be conducive to in-situ leach mining using our newly patented iodine lixiviant. I examined locations in Wyoming and Alaska.

Rich had supervised several plants back east working mainly in organic chemistry. Later he found industrial mineral deposits and their process metallurgy to be very interesting and worked in that area around the world. We re-bonded our friendship in person after 30 years with a tour of the west. On the way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks we stopped in Dubois, Wyoming. After a pleasant breakfast we stopped in the hardware store. Failing to find any gold pans in stock plan "B" was a nine-inch pie pan and a tulip bulb planter. We crested Togwotee Pass with the morning sun in our rear window. Rich was impressed with his first onset to the parks as the magnificent Tetons and Jackson Lake filled our vista. We spent a good part of the day touring Jackson. I spoke of placer gold and began to interest him in trying out the pan. With our National Parks Pass we entered Grand Teton via the bridge over Pacific Creek.

I described, then demonstrated, the technique of heavy mineral (black sand) separation from metaquartzite bank gravels near the bridge. He had heard of the method but only in the metallurgical classroom. He gave it a try and got the hang of it properly keeping the outfall of the pan contents under water as shown in the first figure. The separation and small concentrate of fine black sands was reasonably accomplished. As the sun began shadowing the south side of the creek it became difficult to see any "color" in the fine heavies. Checking the concentrate with my hand lens, a few tiny grains looked rather yellowish. He felt good about making the concentrate but was not totally sure about gold being present. So we collected the few cubic millimeters of "cons" into an empty film can and labelled it RLZ-1 for a check under the microscope on my return to Boulder.

Next week viewing under the microscope the cons contained six gold grains of .2 to .4 millimeters length. Other minerals with gold included: quartz, zircon, monazite, rutile and mainly magnetite shown in the second figure. For fun, I wrote up my consulting geological report including a map, photomicrographs, and invoice. I stated the fee would be waived if we could see more of the west next summer. He called me later saying that we should have another "big adventure". The next summer a round trip ticket arrived and we toured Vancover Island, BC

Mining and Frontier Stories

GOT GOLD? Part II
Near the mouth of Pacific Creek, Wyoming, USA

This continues the previous discussion of panning gravels from Pacific Creek, in Grand Teton National Park, Northwestern, Wyoming. The gold panning yielded a small concentrate of black sands which were subsequently examined under the microscope. This revealed the minerals: gold, zircon, rutile, monazite, magnetite, and quartz shown in the first figure. The small quartz crystals generally were clear and rounded, but curiously some had prismatic faces of which a few had recognizable pyramidal termination. A second area of the black sand concentrate examined contained five additional ragged gold grains and smaller, well-rounded magnetite grains shown in the second figure. (The largest of the gold grains is 0.3 millimeters long). The surficial presentation of the gold is in stark contrast with the magnetite in this clay-poor, coarse sediment laden creek. Here, extremely soft and malleable gold in this alluvial placer would be expected to have rounded edges and smoothed surfaces. But instead, in this sample, the gold grains show ragged edges and very rough surfaces suggesting short travel. The much harder magnetite is rather well rounded, attributable to alluvial abrasion along the stream course.

The rough appearance of the gold here is not the result of: recent liberation from a nearby hydrothermal vein source, alluvial abrasion, or alloying metal (silver and copper) dissolution, but more likely in-situ gold precipitation. Gold grain formation could be attributed to selectively solubilizing and precipitating bacteria. Work by Dave Craw, University of Otago, has shown gold nuggets weighing 3 grams formed through bacterial mechanisms in New Zealand placers. Stylianos-Savvas P. Augustithis attributed PGM nuggets to be grown by accretion with similar rough appearance in lateritic soils overlying the ultrabasic complex at the sacrifice of sperrylite from Yubdo, Western Ethiopia.


Frontier Memoir Written by J. W. Winingar in 1926 (Jim Davis' greatgrandfather)

In my years on the plains I had often been in the foothills of the Rockies and the Big Horns, but had never been on top of any of them. I came here in 1886 with an outfit that brought about 600 head of horses up here from Cheyenne to turn on the open range. After locating and fixing up a camp about two miles from the mountains, I had nothing to do for awhile and as the call of the wild was strong within me, I concluded to take a day to explore the mountains. Reaching them I looked for the best place to go up and decided above the canyon wall looked like the easiest climb. After numerous stops to get my wind, I reached the first bench. Sitting down on a fallen tree I got a bird's eye view of the plains. Off to the east as far as the eye could reach was a rolling green sea of prairie. At that time this was the summer feeding ground of thousands of wild antelope and equally wild cattle and horses.

To the southeast 70 miles away I could trace the dim dark outlines of Pumpkin Buttes - two big round top hills rising hundreds of feet above the surrounding country. Through the distant haze they had a lonesome somber look, standing as they had stood for centuries, grim silent sentinels keeping their eternal vigil over the vast plains. I started to tell about my trip on the mountains and here I am away out on the plains. But the view was so fine I had to describe it.

Resuming my way up a gentle slope through the timber, I came out in an open park some three hundred yards wide by five or six long. At the north side was a few large pines; from there it sloped gently to the south, ending at a steep, heavily timbered bluff. At the foot of the hill a small mountain stream went tumbling down over its rocky bed to lose itself among the boulders far down the canyon. This was a virgin spot, nothing to indicate that man had ever invaded it. To all appearances I might have been the first man there.

It was a clear, bright day in June. All nature was awake. The green sward was thickly dotted with many varieties of wild flowers of all colors. A pair of magpies, busy with their nest building, scolded me for intruding. A little pine squirrel from his safe perch high up in a tree set up a vigorous barking as though to scare me away. But the songbirds sang me a joyous welcome. Seated on a boulder in the shade of a large tree, I breathed deeply of the pure dry air, pregnant of the pines and flowers. At this altitude (about 9,000 feet) the invigorating effect was truly wonderful.20

Suddenly I became aware that everything was still, not a sound of bird or animal, all was silent as the grave. I voluntarily bared my head believing that for once I was alone with Nature and Nature's God. Presently I detected a slight sound in the pine needles over head, soft and low like a gentle whisper. The strangeness of it all had so wrought up my mind that I would almost believe that the departed spirits of some former dwellers of the mountains had returned for one more look at their former home.

All at once as if by some pre-concerted signal, the birds broke forth in a perfect riot of song, as though after paying silent tribute to the invisible worshipers they would voice their praise to the world and the great creator for all this wondrous beauty.

A lark swinging on a slender willow sprang from his perch and soared aloft, uttering his clear mellow notes which seemed to express his joy at being alive amid all this splendor.

Wishing to get a more extended view, I decided to climb the limestone cliff north of me. It rose in rather a sharp angle some 600 to 700 feet. It was quite a climb, but the sight that greeted me fully repaid me for the effort. There were open parks, dark dense patches of timber, huge bright colored granite cliffs, and deep dark canyons. The many changes in contour and color presented new beauties at every turn. Off to the right some twenty miles away was Cloud Peak, its snow cloud top towering up into the sky nearly 14,000 feet. The element of centuries had torn great gaps in its sides which gave it a rough and ragged appearance.

A group of clouds hovered over the top of the peak. Instead of drifting in a given direction, they seemed to float around the peak in a rotating motion. The upper clouds were as white as the snow, while others were all shades from white to black as they came more or less in shadow. Others, as they caught the reflection of the sun on the snow at various angles, showed all the bright colors of the rainbow.

Before starting back I took a long comprehensive view of the whole expense. It presented a panorama so vast, so changeable, and withal so beautiful that I cannot do it justice. Returning to the little stream, I followed it up in the timber some distance 'til I came to the spring at its head. It bubbled up from beneath the granite ledge forming a little pool; clear as crystal, almost ice cold, and sweet as nectar. Such a beverage as one can only find deep in the solitude of the mountains, where God, the eternal, brews it for his creatures.

Descending the mountains I reached camp late in the afternoon, tired but happy.

After a lapse of nearly forty years, every incident and every scene is as vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday, and I still look back to that day as one of the most enjoyable I ever experienced.I often ask myself the question: "From whence came the mighty power that threw up these huge peaks and rent asunder the solid rock of the canyons hundreds of feet deep?" Surely it did not happen by chance. The mastermind of the supreme architect of the universe must have guided the hand of nature in shaping all this beautiful landscape.

Signed J. W. Winingar, 1926.


THE BIG HOLE
by Jim Davis

After an hour's drive from the cabin we parked our old Ford pickup off the ancient wagon road and walked the hundred yards to the canyon rim, so abrupt that the sudden drop-off was always a finger tingling surprise. Topside the trail is invisible, blown over by sand dunes and winding amongst large sagebrush. We follow by intuition and memory from the last trip here. A trail through a hidden gap in the cliff gives us passage into the canyon. From there one must carefully pick the way, avoiding cactus and the possible rattlesnake. It was a hot descent into the canyon with our homemade backpacks and bedrolls tied on top, but we anticipated the delights of fishing, swimming, exploring and eating that awaited us. And soul-soothing solitude.

The sound of the stream far below would waft up to us on the summer breezes. The rest of the world faded from memory as we climbed down through the hidden way into the gorge where the creek glides soothingly over water worn sandstone. This polished rock slopes for a few gentle feet up from the creek before it stops against a wall of rock. It is sort of a petrified beach of 300 million year old sand, disinterred and reinstated by this small, springtime boisterous stream. In a wider spot of this beach we would set our camp, sit on the sun-warmed sandstone and dip our toes in the cold waters. Against the rock wall we built a small fire pit out of slabby stones on which we laid our iron grill. From this kitchen Mother produced steaming breakfasts of fresh grilled fish, campfire coffee and fluffy flapjacks. For dinner Mom dug into the hefty backpacks and laid out feasts of venison steaks, fried potatoes, radishes from the mountain garden and home-made bread with gooseberry or raspberry jelly.

A few steps downstream the creek abruptly changes character and plunges thirty feet over an overhanging ledge into a pool of water, perhaps fifty feet in diameter. The pool, "The Big Hole", is a deep blue green color, reflecting the sky and the chokecherry bushes along the creek. In the quieter part of the pool, away from the fall, are the rippled reflections of the fir trees growing on the shady side of the canyon. Beneath the reflections one can see big native trout, larger than normal for a small creek because of the deep water and abundant food in the Big Hole.

The nights were a world of brilliant stars framed by the blackness of the canyon walls. A warm breeze flowed up the canyon, misting the waterfall and muffling the sound so that it was only a pleasant whisper above the burbling stream. Embers from the campfire warmed us as the evening cooled, but we hurried to the flannel sheets as the last of the coals faded. For my sisters and I, cares naught, sleep was quick to come and ended only with the aroma of breakfast.

With the wonders of our campsite we knew that further reaches of the canyon must hold others. Our efforts to explore, however were thwarted by house size boulders and thick brush. Oft-times the creek would be nothing more than a murmur beneath the giant pieces of cliff that had broken off from the high rims. Nowhere else did we find a spot that even closely rivaled the Big Hole.

When I was very young I reasoned that I might have to become a hermit to enjoy the delights of nature such as we found at the "Big Hole" but then, to my everlasting gratitude, my parents headed my thoughts and education into becoming a geologist.


The Little Mo Mine
by Jim Davis

Frontier's DC-3 stood forlornly on the tarmac of the Riverton, Wyoming airport. I could barely see it through the howling, snow laden wind. I didn't really want to get on it and if airplanes have feelings (DC-3's had a lot of personality) I think it didn't want to leave Mother Earth either.

But I had a job to do. Our hungry uranium mill needed ore and we needed John C.'s mine. The Little Mo Mine had some ore and fair exploration potential. It had something else we needed-an all-important AEC allocation. Every pound of ore we put through the Riverton mill in 1960 had to be tied to a hard to come by AEC allocation. I had to get John C. to Casper for negotiations for the mine.
"Come on John, they're calling the flight."

John C., his chiseled features grimly showing his displeasure at the prospects of flying, stood without moving. I picked up his little overnight bag and headed for the terminal door. John moved back from the door and began to talk to his wife. They were both shaking their heads and were obviously talking John's way out of my plans. I hurried back.

"Come on John, it'll be okay. It's only an hour flight over to Casper."

"Jim, I'll need a little spending money while I'm there."

I could tell he was stalling for time. I looked out and saw the last passenger in line climbing the stairs into the plane. The wind caught a woman's scarf and carried it out into the Wyoming prairie. The flight attendant examined her list and looked back towards the terminal.

"O.K. John, here's fifty dollars, we gotta go!" I turned and headed for the plane. I looked back. John and his wife were in discussion again. John beckoned me back. "I can't go." John said with a tone of finality. "You can't go? What about the fifty dollars I just gave you? "I gave it to the Missus. She needs groceries and gas to get back out to the mine."

I looked at the little gray-haired wife and felt bad. "OK John, here's another fifty, we'd better go." (So much for my expense advance.) I saw the stairs to the plane being raised and, tugging on John's coat sleeve, I pulled him towards the plane. The starboard engine came to life with a cloud of smoke and throaty roar. With an impatient smile the stewardess let the stairs back down and hurried us on board.

The Little Mo Mine on Copper Mountain in central Wyoming, later known as the Arrowhead Mine, had a complicated history. The claims were staked back in the mid-50's by rancher Clifford Reed. Reed leased the property to the Little Mo Mining Company, named after a range of buttes nearby Devils Tower where the company had some dog-hole mines. J. Kummerfeld owner of the company, was one of those jack-of-many-trades who characterized the small mine operators of those more free-wheeling days.

When I came into the picture the mine had produced a little ore and earned an AEC allocation by virtue of its early discovery. I liked the potential for increasing the reserves by drilling and underground drifting. Little Mo didn't have the funding for either one. The company was already being leaned on by a Chicago financing partner, Marty H., who we suspected might have borrowed from the Mafia.

John, a retired deep-sea diver, was the operator and minority owner of the mine, was having trouble making the switch from underwater work to underground mining. Little Mo's backers weren't happy and my company needed mill feed. My boss had put together a meeting with Little Mo owners and Marty H., the money man from Chicago. My job was to deliver John C. to the meeting in Casper where Little Mo's attorney had his office.

The flight to Casper seemed to take an awful long time. The plane treaded its way around the Rattlesnake Mountains and other geographic highs so as not to waste time climbing to a higher altitude. Occasionally I could catch glimpses of the snow whitened hills below (not far enough below.) John gripped the arm rests, his fists whiter than his grim face. Finally the plane seemed to be groping for the landing strip but I couldn't see one. Suddenly there was a screech as the tires found the tarmack and we taxied to the terminal. John and I both breathed a sigh of relief.

We all had our objectives. Marty, fearing the wrath of Chicago mob money backers, pleaded. John, his dream of becoming a wealthy mining magnate fading, pouted. My boss, Stu Merwin, needing the ore feed with some profit, stood resolute. Little Mo's lawyer, needing a drink, suggested we move the negotiations to the lobby bar. Me? I needed a project to keep my job alive.

The wrangling continued through the next day and well into the next night before an agreement was hammered out. Richard, the jovial, but tough lawyer for Little Mo, suggested we have a 2 AM breakfast at a restaurant down on the Sand Bar, a notorious after hour's district of some historical and nefarious fame. As we entered the restaurant, several ladies of the night called out an invitation from the second story windows across the street. "Hi, Richard, why don't you bring your friends over?"

We all shook our heads emphatically and scurried into the cafe, for breakfast, although I wondered if Richard might have accepted the invitation for himself later.


Exploration Memoirs IV - Deer Hunting in Siberia
by Harold A. Backer

The outside temperature was -300 C. It was January and I was 16 time zones from Denver. My journey had taken two days. The last six hours had been in a Soviet jeep driving through a farming region with snow covered rolling wooded hills and fields in the Trans-Baikal area of Russia. This was my fourth trip to Siberia during those early days of Perestroika (Peace) and Glasnost (Friendship).
As we drove into the town of Baley, looking across the frozen river, I could see the head frame, mill, and administrative building of the inactive gold mine where I would be working. The project would eventually prove up several million ounces of additional reserves, but this story is about the first few days.

Each assignment was an adventure and I never quite knew what to expect. Once again, I was meeting a new group of mining people. There was always an initial period of adjustment and getting to know each other. In most cases, I was the first American they would meet.

As we pulled into the housing compound of my host, a group of people dressed for the weather and carrying guns came out of a log cabin building. After introductions, my interpreter, Surgey, a 22 year old Russian university student, told me that we were going deer hunting. We hurried into a small guest cottage that would be our home for the next three months and changed into our arctic gear.

After two hours of pushing through a foot of snow in our two four-wheel drive vehicles, we arrived at a small cabin in the woods. The cabin contained a wooden platform mounted wall to wall covering three-fourths of the interior. On the dirt floor in one corner was a wood stove. The remaining space was not large enough for everyone to stand at the same time. A fire was quickly started and quilts, blankets, and food were unloaded from the vehicles.

As the sun started to set, the top of a tin can was nailed to a tree about 50 meters away. I was handed a rifle and asked to hit the target. Wrapping the sling around my arm, I squeezed off a round hitting the tree ten centimeters above the target. I was disappointed but everyone else was satisfied because the sights had been set for 100 meters.

After a dinner of pelmaynee, seven of us slept on the platform bed. There was just enough room if we slept on our sides. When someone in the middle of the night wanted to turn over, we all had to turn over. With jet lag, I slept well; however, I do not know if anyone else did, since I have been known to snore.

The next morning, I asked what type of deer we were hunting. The translation came back to me "big ones" and "small ones." We hunted most of the day without any luck. Only once, in the distance, did I spot two deer running away from me. Late in the afternoon a decision was made to go to a different area. One vehicle would return to town with three people including Surgey. The other four of us would drive to a dairy farm about an hour away. The drivers crawled under the vehicles, heated the oil pans with blow torches, and started the vehicles.

The farm was without electricity. That night, under a lantern, around the farmer's kitchen table, hunting stories were told with the help of a bottle of Georgian cognac. In our group was Alexi, the President of a mining company, his 15 year old son Sasha, and an older man, Petre, who was the most experienced and successful hunter in the region. Like many Siberians, young Sasha had a passion for hunting. He was studying English in school and by default, he was my interpreter. Later we had the luxury of only four of us in one bed.

Early the next morning we all headed out in different directions. I hiked across the valley and up a ridge covered by birch trees. Deer tracks were everywhere. I picked a spot along a deer trail with a good view and waited. About 11 o'clock I heard some shots on my side of the valley. By that time, I could not feel my toes even though I had a double layer of felt in my Sorel boots. So, I decided to head back to the farm. Along the way I noticed indentations and blood drops in the snow where someone had been dragging an animal.

Back at the farm, Sasha was gutting a deer hung in a tree. Everyone else had also returned. As I approached, he pulled the steaming liver out of the carcass, cut it into slices and started handing pieces around. He handed a slice to me. I hesitated. With everyone looking at me, I ate it. That day, a friendship was bonded and I joined the fraternity of Siberian hunters.


March 05

Bear Season in the Coeur d'Alene District
by Bob Kinkel

When I was working in the Coeur d'Alene district in the late 60's I had several field assistants. One was memorable. Skip was a student at Yale and assigned to me my first season by Joe Hall, the President of Callahan Mining Corp.

Skip was one of those persons that attracted interesting situations. the most memorable for me, and I am sure for Skip, ocurred one morning as we were looking for outcrop in a deep dozer cut. We were walking along a trail on the berm down slope from the cut.

I had to continually watch Skip as he had a tendency to get distracted. Once again he was not in sight behind me. I called, and he yelled back "there's a bear cub here in the brush". I hollered to "get the hell up here" . "It's real cute", he yelled, "come see it". Before I could respond I heard "AND HERE'S ITS MOTHER". Skip blasted out of the brush, over the berm and up the cut wall to an 8 inch pine. He scaled up the tree with an agitated black bear snapping at his heels. I called "where is the cub" , Skip relayed "here's its mother".

I sure didn't want to be between the momma and her cub. I asked again and got the same answer. I told him to try and get his pack off and throw it down; it had our snacks and might be a distraction. By this time the bear had tired of Skip and turned her attention back to her cub. As she went over th berm into the brush she must have caught my scent. She headed my way on the berm trail.

I had my red Filson vest off and was waving it, and my hammer in the other hand and yelling at momma. Pencils and notebooks went flying. Fortunately we had sort of a mexican standoff for a minute or so before momma turned and disapeared into the bush.

The next day I bought a snub-nosed 38 with shoulder holster. After a few days the pistol went in the pack. I never saw a bear closeup the next 4 years I was working in the Northwest. However, I did fire the gun several times to let hunters know I was in the area.


Feb 05

Near the far end of the Colorado Mineral Belt - Deep Down the No. 2 Winze
by a DREGS Member

The geologists gathered around the light table as several of the latest Diamec drill core logs had been plotted on the translucent mylar for the 17th level. We looked at the assayed zones along the refracted holes plotted on Sperry-Sun single-shot gyroscope data every 100 feet. Interpolations were made and showed new ore reserves were going to be added over the next few weeks. The near end-of-hole favorable host rock structure often showed up to keep the chief mine geologist awake at night to plan his next hole from the level drill station.

We were just about to resume our various pre-lunch work when the unforgettable came over the speaker from the collar station. All who heard gasped at these words: "Randy fell down the shaft"! We stopped in our tracks and silently waited. The mine safety manager and shift foreman grabbed their Wheat cap lamps and rushed into the adit along the track to the winze collar to investigate. Calls for outside emergency transit were made from the remote mine which had never before lost a man.

By next day word of the way Randy died spread to all three shifts. Although it was fast, it was horrible to witness by his partner. Mine Safety & Health Administration and police investigators determined that the two men made a fatal mistake in how they had placed their equipment and themselves inside the hoist cage.

The man-cage was overtop the ore skip on this wire rope double-drum hoist. Overtop the man-cage were the hoist's wire rope tensioned steel safety dogs as the braking mechanism ready to gouge into the side guides if ever that cable broke dropping the load of men or ore. These guides were made of twenty-foot lengths of white oak and New Zealand karri wood to keep the cage and skip on line but there is usually a bit of frictional "hiss" during hoisting along certain winze elevations shaking your stance just a bit. The double-door man-cage, with either-end exitable, latched from the inside but opened inward adjacent to the cage guide sides. This time as Randy and his partner loaded the cage, their gear included a large amount of equipment that would not allow them to reclose and latch the rear cage doors after they got in. Between them were included some 10-foot lengths of Sandvik drill steel leaned against and extending above the opposite closed doors. Then from near the bottom of the dripping, dark, cool winze they gave the pull signal to the hoist operator from inside the loaded cage: 1-1 - 3 - 1 meaning: 1st level - Men on - Hoist up.

As the men and equipment were hoisted, the cage first passed alternately inclined ore chute openings, then about 20 feet higher the various level stations. As the cage was raised it shook at the usual rough spots along the shaft guides, and the drill steel vibrated gradually protruding over the closed cage door suddenly jamming their top ends against the horizontal steel set liner in the double-compartment winze. In a split second the straight steel became a cocked spring and forced Randy out the open cage doorway and held him against the timbers as the hoisting continued! Then as the next level ore chute was met, Randy was expelled into the opening, disappearing into the darkness and falling about 900 feet to the sump below! The hoist stopped at the 1st level with only one of the two men. MSHA investigated and subsequently issued an advisory "Fatalgram" about the tragedy. It stated that mine personnel shall not travel in the cage with equipment that prohibits the designed closure and proper latching of doors. Such equipment shall then be hoisted alone unaccompanied by personnel.


Jan 05

Exploration for the Rosewood Kawai Piano, Adventures at 4,000 meters on Mt. White
by Jim Paschis, Boulder Colorado

The day had been in the company of Andrew M. Taylor of Golden, Colorado. In the early years we had occasion to collect beryllium minerals: the two beryl varieties- aquamarine and goshenite, phenakite, and bertrandite at the Mount Antero, Colorado area by usually working our respective, previously productive mineral prospects. On this trip however, we decided to explore and prospect adjacent mountains, including Mount White and Tabeguache Peak, to the south of Mount Antero in the Sawatch Range.

When collecting together on this trip our agreement was to group each find and honor the discoverer with the first choice of any mineral specimen from that locality. Each of us then would make alternate selections until the day's finds were distributed. In the afternoon on the last day we decided to prospect individually and personally retain any minerals recovered.

I returned to my previously productive site operated in the early 1970's on Mt. White. My search at Icy claim did not yield any specimens of significance this time. As the shadows lengthened from the iron-stained mountains to the west, rather reluctantly I decided then to pack equipment, return to the rendezvous location, and meet my companion to see if he had better success.

Tales of serendipitous finds of aquamarine just lying on the surface had never been originated by my fortune. However, this time was to be the exception during my hike back. Less than five minutes away from the truck, selecting good footing for a succeeding step , to my left was a widely weathered, jointed opening floored by grus a half-meter down. At the bottom a small, dim but distinctly purple color, attracted my peripheral vision. I turned, dropped down, and reached deep as my elbow. Grasping and viewing the piece it displayed: a nice magenta fluorite octahedron; neat! Turning it over to further inspect gave a second surprise: a clear doubly terminated aquamarine prism partially enclosed by the fluorite; wow!! Then rotating the specimen again I was additionally impressed: a colorless phenakite, making an intact terminated triple association!!!

Later, recalling this discovery on July 4th, 1976 near sunset, the field circumstances probably most helpful had included: favorable joint orientation, optimized visibility under comparatively lower light contrast, and my selected pathway. Had I been five minutes later in returning the lighting would have been too dim, or by leading with my opposite foot I might have stepped over the crystal, or constantly admiring the majestic mountains along the continental divide instead of looking downward, assuredly this unique mineral specimen would have been overlooked.

This group was beyond the calibre of my mineral collection. So it was not difficult to consent to a good offer. The payment purchased the first 22 keys of the Kawai.


Dec 05

Memorable Moments in Exploration
Dancing with Sheep
by Bill Carlson

Ray Barkley and I were conducting exploration with Kerr-McGee Corp. for uranium deposits in the Morrison Formation in the southern portion of the San Juan Basin on the northeast flank of the Zuni Uplift northeast of Gallup, New Mexico. It was circa 1960, July, in the midst of a particularly violent thunderstorm season with its almost daily cloudbursts and gully washers.

We were driving a short-wheel base two seat 4-wheel drive jeep along a two-track trail approaching a cluster of Navajo hogans. As we were crossing a small gully, a tributary to the Rio Puerco River, the jeep sank to its floor boards in quick-sand. It should not have been a surprise as frequent cloudbursts the past week had washed out numerous road and trail crossings.

We struggled out of our jeeps, the doors pushing against the muck. We, ourselves, had to stagger a bit to reach solid ground at the edge of the arroyo as the muck wanted to claim our field boots.

Ray and I paused to assess the situation. There was no way the jeep could be dug out with only one shovel when a D-9 bulldozer was the more appropriate tool. It was early afternoon and large thunder heads were building. Artistic, but we could not appreciate the beauty as we envisioned the jeep being swept downstream in a 5-foot wave of water and debris. Would Kerr-McGee deduct the cost of the jeep from our meager salaries? Could we be fired or, worse yet, be transferred to Oklahoma City or Houston?

The we noticed a group of Indian men, women, kids, and dogs coming towards us from the cluster of hogans. Upon reaching us, they looked at our hopeless situation, pointing and jabbering in their native tongue. Finally, one of the Indians approached us and said in clear, distinct, flawless King's English, "We will help you dig out if you promise to do us a favor. Three nights ago, lightning struck the corral next to our hogans, killing three sheep. We can't dispose of the sheep because if we touch them we will be filled with evil spirits. It will be another three or four days before the medicine man can come to sprinkle holy water on the sheep. Only then can we touch them and go on with our lives". This Indian told us that he had served in the European Theatre during World War II, had been to college, and had come back to live on the reservation.

We said that we would accept the proposal thinking there was no way they could extricate the jeep from its junky grave. But as a precaution, I asked "What happens if we touch the sheep?" Will the evil spirits enter our bodies and souls?" He replied, "You will not be affected, because you do not believe and think like the Navajo".

I reluctantly accepted this line of thought, but I wondered to myself, how would he know what and how I believe when it comes to religious philosophy, and good and evil spirits in particular.

Ray, thinking it improbable that the jeep could be dug out before the coming cloudburst, borrowed a horse from the Indians to seek heavy equipment assistance from a Phillips Petroleum drilling camp about three miles away. Ray, coming out of ranching heritage in South Dakota, was used to riding bareback on Lakota horses and he felt confident he could ride a Navajo horse. I had no choice but to believe him, hoping I would see him again.

Well, the digging commenced as the sky became darker and more turbulent looking. The women, kids, and dogs did the digging while the men sat around pointing and giving orders. After an hour of digging, the lower half of the jeep was exposed, and I, along with the English-speaking Indians were on our way to the coral, the dead sheep, and the evil eyes spirits. Meanwhile, the sky was looking more ominous.

The sheep were large, one ram with two ewes, weighing I judged, 60 to 100 pounds. They were still in the state of rigor mortis. Thankfully, decomposition had not yet begun. The English-speaking Indian told me to take them in a down stream direction and dump them over the bank into the Rio Puerco River.

I struggled mightily with each sheep. To an observer, it must have looked as though I were dancing with them in my attempt to load them into the jeep. I don't know if I was doing a waltz, the two-step, the tango, or boogleloo loading two across the tailgate and the other into the passenger seat. To me, it seemed like a wrestling match, and I was losing.

The same show was repeated unloading them down stream and escorting them to the edge of the bank and pushing them into the flowing river. All this time the sky flashed lightning and thunder boomed and rolled. Obviously, the spirits were agitated as I was.

As I drove back to the hogans, Ray returned with the horse stating that mechanical help would be a long time coming because of other pressing duties at the drill sites. Of course the news was not that depressing as the Indians had extricated the jeep an hour earlier. Rain began to fall heavily, and we dashed for the arroyo crossing which was already running water. We made it safely across, but just barely. But by the time we reached the Rio Puerco River, the last obstacle to a return to Gallup and a nice hot shower and dinner, the river was running three feet deep across the ford, even deeper in the pot holes.

At midnight, the D-9 bulldozer arrived leading a string of pickups and water trucks. The river had subsided somewhat deeming it safe to attempt crossing. The dozer towed each vehicle separately. We were the last to be towed across, and the remainder of our drive to Gallup was uneventful. It was about 3:00 A.M. when we arrived at the motel. Of course all of the restaurants were closed. Ray had the scent of wet horse hair and I probably reeked of rancid mutton. The night clerk looked us over and in a cheery tone of voice, told us the boiler was malfunctioning, and there was no hot water. "What a pity, eh?" A cold shower and a butterscotch life saver was the best we could do.

That was the first time of many subsequent times I felt that perhaps evil spirits indeed had entered my body and soul. Perhaps the Navajo were on to something after all.